Protesters gather outside Parliament in support of a gender identity bill, currently being debated by lawmakers, in central Athens, on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. The banner reads in Greek "gender identity". Greece's powerful Orthodox Church is urging the left-led government to withdraw draft legislation, due to be voted Tuesday, that would allow free determination of gender identity, irrespective of how it was recorded at birth. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Protesters gather outside Parliament in support of a gender identity bill, currently being debated by lawmakers, in central Athens, on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. The banner reads in Greek "gender identity". Greece's powerful Orthodox Church is urging the left-led government to withdraw draft legislation, due to be voted Tuesday, that would allow free determination of gender identity, irrespective of how it was recorded at birth. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(171016) -- ATHENS, Oct. 16, 2017 (Xinhua) -- Children watch bird release at the "Antonis Tritsis" Environmental Education & Sensitization Park in the northern suburb of Athens, Greece, on Oct. 15, 2017. To celebrate the autumn migration of birds, people of all ages attended a festival of bird watching here on Sunday. The event was organized by the Hellenic Ornithological Society in an attempt to raise awareness for this special natural phenomenon, as part of the European Bird Watching Day. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos) (djj)
(171016) -- ATHENS, Oct. 16, 2017 (Xinhua) -- Children watch bird release at the "Antonis Tritsis" Environmental Education & Sensitization Park in the northern suburb of Athens, Greece, on Oct. 15, 2017. To celebrate the autumn migration of birds, people of all ages attended a festival of bird watching here on Sunday. The event was organized by the Hellenic Ornithological Society in an attempt to raise awareness for this special natural phenomenon, as part of the European Bird Watching Day. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos) (djj)

INTERNATIONAL - The Greek economy fell into recession again last year, confounding its international creditors who had predicted some growth after years of budget austerity.

The economy contracted by 0.2percent in 2016, statistics service Elstat said yesterday, releasing its revised estimate of full-year gross domestic product (GDP).

The Elstat estimate was based on lower than previously estimated household consumption. It said gross domestic product in volume terms and measured at constant prices was 175.9billion (R2.786 trillion) last year, down from 178.1bn in 2015. Final consumption dropped by an annual 0.3 percent, against a 0.6 percent rise estimated by the agency in March.

“It’s a small change that has minor impact on other indices and on fiscal figures. It is a slightly weaker depiction of the real economy in 2016 due to the downwardly revised consumption expenditure,” said National Bank economist Nikos Magginas.

He said that the registered trend in consumption would also be a challenge for 2017. Years of austerity imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the EU in exchange for bailouts have made many Greeks far poorer and shrunk consumption accordingly. The European Commission, in its winter forecast published in February, projected GDB growth of 0.3 percent in 2016 while the International Monetary Fund’s upwardly revised estimate saw GDP growth of 0.4 percent.

The government, which faces a third review to its international bailout this autumn, has cut this year’s economic growth projection to 1.8 percent from 2.7 percent in May. The commission has also cut its forecast to 2.1 percent from 2.7 percent. Greece’s central bank sees GDP growing by 1.7 percent this year and picking up to 2.4 percent in 2018.

Economic recovery will be key to bringing down a jobless rate of 21 percent, the highest in the euro zone, and attaining this year a primary budget surplus of 1.75 percent, excluding debt servicing outlays, demanded by Greece’s creditors. 

- REUTERS