macrohistory & world report

Hellenic Republic (Greece)

Map of Greece

Greece (capital Athens) and its islands (including Lesvos, Samos, Rhodes and Crete) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Greece has a capitalist economy with a public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP about two-thirds that of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 18% of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs. Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3% of annual GDP. The Greek economy averaged growth of about 4% per year between 2003 and 2007, but the economy went into recession in 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis, tightening credit conditions, and Athens' failure to address a growing budget deficit. By 2013 the economy had contracted 26%, compared with the pre-crisis level of 2007... Under intense pressure from the EU and international market participants, the government adopted a medium-term austerity program that includes cutting government spending, decreasing tax evasion, overhauling the health-care and pension systems, and reforming the labor and product markets."

April 4, 2012: World Factbook "...massive austerity cuts are lengthening Greece's economic recession and depressing tax revenues. Greece's lenders are calling on Athens to step up efforts to increase tax collection, privatize public enterprises, and rein in health spending, and are planning to give Greece more time to shore up its economy and finances. Many investors doubt that Greece can sustain fiscal efforts in the face of a bleak economic outlook, public discontent, and political instability."

public debt
2011: 165.4% of GDP
2010: 142.7% of GDP

Economic growth rate
2013: -3.8
2012: -6.4%
2011: -7.1%
2010: -4.8%
2009: -2.0%
2008: 2.%
2007: 4%

Unemployment rate
2011: 17%
2010: 12.5%
2009: 8.9%
2008: 8.0%

Value Added Tax: 23%

Health expenditures
2009: 7.4% of GDP


Labor force is in agriculture
2005: 20%

Living in an urban area
2010: 61%

2001 census: Greek 93%, other (foreign citizens) 7%

Greek Orthodox (official) 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%  


(As of May 2014) Chief of state: Karolos Papoulias (president) since 12 March 2005, Panhellenic Socialist Movement (left-center or social democratic). Head of government: Antonis Samaras (prime minister), New Democracy (center-right).


Southern Europe, east of Albania, west of Turkey, south of Macedonia and Bulgaria. 13,676 kilometers of coastline. Capital: Athens.

Recent History

1952: Joined NATO.

1974: Overcame seven years of military dictatorship, abolished its monarchy and created a parliamentary republic.

1981: joined the European Community – which, in 1992, became the European Union.  

2004: Congratulations to Fani Halkia for winning the women's 400-meter hurdles at the Athens Olympics. When asked by a US newsman about being a hero for the Greeks, she looked at him as through he were absurd. She was not interested in being a hero. She was running for Greece. "I wanted to show the world that the Greeks are high up there," she said. "The Greeks are born to be winners."

August 3, 2006: According to a BBC article, death rates on Greek roads are five times higher than in Britain.

December 9, 2008: Writes Malcolm Brabant for the BBC: "Rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek psyche. The students and school children who are now laying siege to police stations and trying to bring down the government are undergoing a rite of passage. They may be the iPod generation, but they are the inheritors of a tradition that goes back centuries, when nuns would rather hurl themselves to death from mountain convents than submit to the ravages of Greece's Turkish Ottoman invaders."

March 2010: A higher percentage of Greeks are having difficulty getting by than the people of other European countries – a cost of living versus income problem. Labor unions are strong. But the government has been spending itself into debt. Prices have been rising. The Greek Government is under pressure to implement an austerity program on top of this misery. This includes cutting government spending in order to solve its debt problem, which is out of sinc with EU requirements. Greece kept hidden the true size of its deficit. The deficit problem was exacerbated, or created, by widespread tax evasion.

The BBC: In the spring of 2010, amid fears of an imminent default on debt payments, Greece's fellow eurozone countries agreed an unprecedented $145bn package to rescue its teetering economy.

May 2010: Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum writes of Athens having 16,974 swimming pools, revealed by satellite photographs. But only 364 people reported to tax authorities that they owned swimming pools.

May 14, 2010: Michael Linden points out in an article online that Greece's budget expenditures are average among countries in the European Union – less for example than Sweden, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Czech Republic. But Greece's tax revenues, he writes, are "clearly on the low end." In other words, it could be said that Greece has a revenue problem rather than a spending problem.

May 21, 2011: The finance elite of eurozone countries pressure Greece to step up economic reform in order to raise 50 billion euros to help reduce its debt.

May 23, 2011: According to the BBC, "The Greek government has said it will begin to sell stakes in a number of domestic corporations 'immediately' in order to raise cash to help reduce its massive debts."

Nov 9, 2011: Jim Hoagland writes in the Washington Post of his experience living in Greece in 1974 and his friends and neighbors not paying "many taxes of any kind – as the European Union has learned to its dismay." He adds, "Greeks refined milking their government into an art, and they were certainly not going to treat the distant, generous European treasury in Brussels differently."

Apr 6, 2012: ""In Greece there are also hundreds of people dying because of the crisis, people we don't see – there are suicides over debts, there are people dying in the streets because they don't have anything to eat." (Quote from an interview in an article by Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN)

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.