Greece eases back on capital controls in bid to reverse currency flight

ProtoThema / Bank of Greece

The Guardian — More than a year after they were imposed, capital controls in Greece were  substantially eased from Monday 1 Aug  in a bid to lure back billions of euros spirited out of the country, or stuffed under mattresses, at the height of the eurozone crisis.

The Greek finance ministry estimates around €3bn-€4bn could soon be returned to a system depleted of more than €30bn in deposits in the run-up to Greece’s  third bailout.

New deposits will not be subject to capital controls; limits on withdrawals of money brought in from abroad will also be higher; and ATM withdrawals will be raised to €840 every two weeks in a reversal of the policy that allowed depositors to take out no more than €420 every week.

Total reserves at Greek banks fell from €170bn to €139.36bn in the first five months of 2015, according to the European Central Bank.  Banks  in Britain and Cyprus are thought to have been among the biggest beneficiaries of outflows.

The latest move, which follows easing of transactions abroad, is directed at small entrepreneurs, for years the lifeline of the Greek economy, and individual depositors.

In shoring up lenders’ liquidity, officials hope fresh deposits will also enable banks to inject badly needed funds into the hard-hit real economy in the form of loans.

Further disbursement of aid – €2.8bn – will depend exclusively on the painful measures being passed. Many are regarded as anathema to increasingly disheartened MPs in the governing Syriza party.

With anger never far from the surface and anti-European sentiment on the rise, what is certain is that almost nothing is certain in the months ahead.