Greece (MNN) — There’s never a good time for a crisis, but the Greek fiscal crisis comes at a terrible time. Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International explains, “It’s peak tourist season. You have literally hundreds of thousands of tourists who are in the country right now who also have to be fed.”
Tourism companies say people are cancelling vacations either because they don’t want to get stranded in Greece, or because they can’t get money out of the banks to pay for the vacations. Plus, Ioannidis says the food supply chain has been tightened considerably with the capital controls imposed on Greek banks. “Because Greek companies cannot make payments to suppliers, they cannot import stuff,” he says, which means provisions aren’t coming in to replace what’s been consumed either.
It’s just one more anecdotal situation illustrating how recovery from Greece’s financial disaster will take much longer than anticipated. Basic economics involving supply and demand don’t work anymore. “Because there are capital controls in the country, there is a very lengthy process that takes several days for companies to get permission from the bank of Greece to send money abroad so that suppliers can ship stuff to Greece.” Money paid for goods is at risk of confiscation to pay the IMF debt on which Greece defaulted.
For the next couple of days, says Ioannidis, “Merchants are reporting that they have things that can be supplied until the end of the week. But starting next week, they will be dealing with shortages.”
The longer the banks stay closed, the more exponential the damage. Even with just a few days of closure, “There is going to be a long term effect that is going to mean probably hundreds of thousands of layoffs in the private sector because of this. Companies cannot function with the capital controls that are in place.”
The layoffs will only magnify the hole left by the next domino to fall, setting into motion a vicious cycle, Ioannidis adds. “The prediction is that regardless of what happens with the banks, or how quickly they open, because it is likely that the capital controls will remain in place for a while, there will be a lot of job losses in the private sectors. That means less tax revenue for the government.”
With each day the economy is on hold, the damage worsens. When Greece started the bailout process in January, there was a trade funding gap of a billion. In the five months that followed, the gap grew to eight billion euros. Today, worsened by the capital controls, the gap has widened to 12 billion. How do you recover from that? The short answer is: you don’t. “Under the best-case scenario–let’s say there is an agreement tonight: it’s going to be years before things recover from where we started back in January,” explains Ioannidis.
With things as constipated as they are in the economy, how are any of AMG’s other ministries still functioning? Their hospital has a stockpile of medicine. Pharmaceutical companies have promised to keep supply lines as open as possible. What about the Logos Bookstores? They’re still open because AMG anticipated the financial disruption. They paid staffers a monthly salary, so the store employees are paid up through the end of the month. Good thing, too. “Basically, the market is dead right now. Nobody is buying anything unless it is an absolute necessity for something to be bought. That’s affecting the operation of places like [AMG] book stores, which are partially self-supported.” However, their bookstores also offer typing and copying services. That means customers are still coming in.
From an earlier writing, in one bookstore in Bolos, a coworker named Costas (who came from Albania and came to know the Lord in Greece) shared about the people who just got in the store in order to make a photocopy.
“It was a lady by the name of Vicky coming from a remote village of Pilio mountain. She had lost her husband, and she was almost depressed. I shared the Gospel and gave her our magazine The Voice of the Gospel. She came back after a month, saying, ‘I know I did not come here by accident. God brought me here in order to change my life!’”
In the right place, at right time. Ioannidis confirms, “We do have wonderful opportunities to engage them in discussion and to share with them about Jesus and about how [He] is the answer to everyone’s problem.”
What now? Greece is still trying to float proposals that the European community will accept. Ioannidis says, “Until there is an agreement and there is more clarity on how the banks are going to function, everything that everybody says is mere speculation.” There is one thing you can do to come alongside AMG’s ministry team in Greece right now. You can pray. Pray for a quick resolution and for the banks to reopen. He adds, for their team, “Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. As you might understand, this is a very stressful situation for the local churches, for the local leaders of ministries. This is creating a lot of stress.”
Ask God to give His peace, His strength and His wisdom as AMG Greece deals day to day with a situation that is completely unpredictable.