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Greece Hopes to Kick Start Growth With Offshore Oil

The Greek soccer team surprised a lot of critics by reaching the Round of 16 stage in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the squad only narrowly missed a trip to the quarterfinals after losing in a shootout with Costa Rica.  Despite a weak team that performed very poorly in its first two games, the Greek squad demonstrated grit and determination, and a foundation on which the team can build.

The analogy is far from perfect, but the Greek economy has surprised critics and shown some green shoots as well. Although suffering a major employment crisis, the country has avoided a catastrophic default and currency crisis, which was a very real possibility not too long ago. Yields on Greek 10-year bonds have hit a multi-year low in 2014, dropping below 6% in June 2014, down from the ruinous levels of near 40% in March 2012. This year may mark the first year of growth for the Greek economy since 2007.

A feeling of optimism has finally hit Athens, and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaris, in a moment of bravado, even compared his country favorably to another country facing an economic crisis. “Things are now improving,” Samaras said to the European Parliament on July 2, 2014. “In a few years, I believe this is going to be a bad memory. If you want the opposite example of Argentina, a very rich country that went bankrupt back in 2002, 12 years later, today, they are still in a crisis, on the verge of a collapse again, much more suffering and no hope -- this is what we did not want to happen in Greece.”

But recovering fully from its economic depression will require new sources of growth, and Greek officials are turning to the country’s potential oil and gas reserves. The Greek government announced at a London Conference on July 1 that it would invite major oil and gas companies to conduct drilling tests in Greek waters. To attract major oil companies, Greece will cut tax rates for oil and gas companies from 40% to 25%. “We have done this in order to incentivise our investors to invest in the future of Greece,” Ioannis Maniatis, Greece's Energy Minister, said at the conference.

Greece, which only produces miniscule levels of hydrocarbons, has historically been heavily dependent on imports of oil and gas to meet domestic needs. Last year it spent $21.2 billion on imported fossil fuels, equivalent to 8.6% of the country’s entire GDP.

However, the enormous discovery of natural gas off the coast…




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