Context of the peer review of Greece

The current coalition government took office in September 2015, following a referendum held in July 2015 to decide Greece’s future in the Eurozone. The government is led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, from the Syriza Coalition of the Radical Left, with support from the nationalist Independent Greeks. The next national elections are slated for September 2019 (EIU, 2018).

The Greek economy was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis. By the beginning of 2010, Greece was no longer able to borrow. The countries of the euro area and the International Monetary Fund provided financial assistance to Greece between May 2010 and August 2018.1 During the first programme of financial assistance public sector salaries were reduced and a 1:5 ratio of recruitment to departures were introduced in the public sector.2

After nine years of deep recession, the Greek economy showed signs of stabilising in 2016 and grew by 1.3% in 2017. Growth is expected to continue, reaching 1.95% in 2018 and 2.3% in 2019. Unemployment has fallen since its 2013 peak of 27.5% reaching 20.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017. Nevertheless, the recession has pushed many people into poverty, and income inequality has risen. Tax and benefit reforms have materially improved the budget position, but the burden of adjustment has been uneven, and public debt is still very high (OECD, 2018a, 2018b).

Greece has a population of 11 million. Women comprise 53% of the foreign born population, which at 7% is below the OECD average (13%).

Greece is the main entry point to Europe for refugees and migrants travelling on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Illegal border crossings soared from an annual average of 45 404 over 2008-14 to 885 386 in 2015, subsequently dropping to 182 277 in 2016 and 42 305 in 2017.3 Between 1 January and 10 July 2018, an estimated 14 392 migrants arrived by sea.4 The number of asylum applications increased from 13 187 in 2015 to 51 053 in 2016, representing a 287% increase, and remained high through 2017 and 2018.5 In May 2018, there were more than 65 000 refugees and migrants in Greece, including around 17 000 on the islands.6

Compared to other OECD countries, Greece has a mixed performance across different dimensions of well-being. Material conditions in Greece are generally below the OECD average: the average net adjusted disposable income per household was just over half the OECD average in 2015; the employment rate was 52% in 2016, compared to the OECD average of 67%. Greece experiences some of the highest levels of labour market insecurity, job strain and long-term unemployment in the OECD, but the share of Greeks working very long hours (7%) is below the OECD average rate (13%). Greece also demonstrates a comparatively high share of well-being deprivations, with 15 out of 20 deprivation indicators – including income and wealth, housing conditions, education and skills, environmental quality and subjective well-being – ranking in the bottom-third (most deprived) of OECD countries (OECD, 2017).

Greece joined the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 1999; this DAC peer review is the country’s fourth.7 In the period since the 2011 peer review, Greece has experienced two significant crises – a severe and protracted economic downturn, and a refugee and migrant crisis – both of which have significantly impacted its development co-operation. As a consequence, official development assistance (ODA) dropped from USD 525 million (0.21% of gross national income (GNI)) in 2008 to a low of USD 191 million (0.10% of GNI) in 2013 (2016 constant USD). Preliminary figures for 2017 show ODA totalling USD 310 million (0.16% of GNI). While Greece continued to meet its multilateral commitments, bilateral ODA was limited to expenditure on scholarships; following the significant influx of migrants and asylum seekers in 2015, it was redirected to in-donor refugee costs.

With the exception of the recently-created Statistical Office in the Directorate General of International Development Cooperation (YDAS/DG Hellenic Aid), the institutional structure remains unchanged since the previous peer review. DG Hellenic Aid is one of seven Directorates General within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and comprises six directorates. DG Hellenic Aid is managed by a Director-General and supervised by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

References

EIU (2018), Greece Country Report, 29 March 2018, Economist Intelligence Unit, London.

Greek Ministry for Migration Policy (2018), Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service, http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Greek_Asylum_Service_Statistical_Data_EN.pdf

OECD (2018a), OECD Economic Surveys: Greece 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-grc-2018-en.

OECD (2018b), OECD Economic Outlook, Volume 2018 Issue 1, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eco_outlook-v2018-1-en.

OECD (2017), “How’s Life in Greece?”, OECD Better Life Initiative, November 2017, https://www.oecd.org/statistics/Better-Life-Initiative-country-note-Greece.pdf.

OECD (2013), OECD Development Assistance Peer Reviews: Greece 2011, OECD Development Assistance Peer Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264117112-en.

OECD (2006), "DAC Peer Review of Greece", OECD Journal on Development, Vol. 7/4, OECD, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/journal_dev-v7-art40-en.

OECD (2002), Development Co-operation Review: Greece, OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/dac/peer-reviews/2076414.pdf.

Notes

← 1. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/infographics/financial-assistance-to-greece-2010-2018/.

← 2. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/article/2016/greece-reducing-the-number-of-public-servants-latest-developments.

← 3. Data from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex): https://frontex.europa.eu/along-eu-borders/migratory-routes/eastern-mediterranean-route/.

← 4. https://www.iom.int/news/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-48629-2018-deaths-reach-1422.

← 5. Greece received 58 642 asylum applications in 2017 and had received 41 358 applications by 31 August 2018 (Greek Ministry for Migration Policy, 2018).

← 6. http://www.unhcr.org/greece.html.

← 7. The three previous peer reviews were undertaken in 2002, 2006 and 2011 (OECD, 2002, 2006, 2013).

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