The ANTYMET car-recycling company northwest of Athens was already down on its luck after six years of one of the worst economic crises of modern times. Then the Greek government closed the banks.

"Every day is like Sunday," said Alexandros Vougiouklakis, standing among stacked rows of rusting cars in the industrial district of Aspropyrgos. "There could not have been a steeper fall in business."

Four days after banks were shuttered to halt a run on deposits by fearful Greeks, an economy already ravaged by recession, unemployment and falling wages and pensions, is gradually being starved of the cash and credit lines that keep it ticking over.

Vougiouklakis, who founded the recycling plant with his brother in 2000, said he was unable to pay suppliers, or to carry through with orders placed for new machinery from China and France. Customers are nowhere in sight.

"The phones have stopped ringing; we just come to the office and sit here doing nothing."

Rationed to 60 euros per day from inundated cash machines, Greeks are holding their breath for the result of a referendum on Sunday that Europe says will decide the country's future in the continent's common currency.

The left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras is urging voters to reject the tough terms of an aid deal with international creditors. It says the banking restrictions - known as capital controls - are temporary, and will be lifted swiftly after the plebiscite.

Greece's European partners say repudiation of austerity will amount to a rejection of the euro and departure from the bloc. In that case, the capital controls will remain indefinitely.


"This week, with only two working days left, the situation is manageable," said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE), a business lobby group. "As of next week, the problems will multiply."

He listed just some of the problems faced by small and medium sized businesses: no access to e-banking for imports, a need to pay up front for supplies, goods stuck at Greek customs because businesses do not have cash to pay the levies.

Korkidis said Greek exporters were unable to obtain credit guarantees from banks. Importers cannot even contract trucks to bring goods into Greece because they would likely return empty and the transport companies do not want to bear the cost.

Even if a business has the money to pay for supplies on delivery, they cannot because it's trapped in the bank and cannot be wired abroad.

Small and medium sized businesses account for about 86 percent of jobs in a country where one in four workers are already unemployed. More than half of such companies are already behind in salary payments.

"The economy is freezing," said Gerald Knaus, founder of the European Stability Initiative think-tank for Southeastern Europe.

"Without basic confidence in the banking sector, without a basic sense of where Greece will stand in two months, you don't invest, you don't borrow, you don't buy."

On Wednesday, Day Three of the capital controls, Greece's top-selling daily Ta Nea wrote in an editorial: "The newspaper you hold in your hands numbers only 32 pages because the stock of printing paper will last for just a few days and it will not be possible to get a fresh supply through customs because of the bank holiday."

Vougiouklakis said the lack of money was becoming ever more apparent.

"If we do any transactions at all today, it will be small and verbal. You give me (the order) and I'll give you (the money) when the banks open. And this is only for incredibly small sums."

Asked how long he could keep paying wages, Vougiouklakis replied: "For as long as the money lasts. In our case, I don't see it lasting for more than a month."