by Ben Hall & Kerin Hope
January 8, 2020
Odos Lekka, a narrow street in the commercial heart of Athens, has not been this bustling in a decade.
Workers are busy refurbishing a drab warehouse left unoccupied during Greece’s prolonged recession. A clutch of new cafés and a smart boutique hotel, one of scores that have sprung up in the capital to cater for a surge in tourism, suggest that Lekka, a stone’s throw from the parliament building, is moving upmarket as the country’s economy gradually recovers.
Alecos, a carpenter, says: “There wasn’t any work round here for several years because of the crisis, but it’s quite different now. I’ve more job offers than I can handle. New businesses are opening and old ones are getting a makeover.”
The burst of optimism is a stark contrast to the experience of recent years. Almost 30 per cent of shops in the area, from high-end retailers of international brands to outlets selling handworked silverware, shut down or changed hands during the country’s deepest recession in memory. Property prices plunged as Greece came to the brink of crashing out of the euro in 2015.
It took Greece nine years to escape from a grinding recession following the 2008 global financial crisis, but the recovery has been weak. This year will test whether the country’s fresh political leadership and renewed business confidence can overcome deep-seated problems holding back fast growth.