Speech at the 21st Economist Conference

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

I would like to warmly thank you for the invitation to close again the proceedings of this year’s Economist Conference.

It is a conference during which many interesting views were heard regarding the issues of Europe and Greece, from people who are in positions of responsibility and they have deep knowledge on the significance of these relevant issues.

The main and timely title of the conference is the characteristic economy of the expressive means and the cognition that highlight these interventions of the Economist, this place us in the essence of the issue.

It is true, that Greece is disengaging, gradually, leaving behind the long term recession and it is creating the conditions for exiting the Guardianship, based on its on strategy for a new Greece, more productive and more equitable.

The effort to reach this point, the point where we can prepare ourselves for the country’s return to regularity following a specific map, was enormous.

The stable over-performing in contrast to the fiscal objectives, it was the key to regain the country’s credibility and solid ground for the following steps of the Greek economy.

And this became possible, without repeating the deadlocks and the catastrophic consequences of an aggressive fiscal adjustment, which we had never seen before, and it was implemented during the period of 2010-2014 and was proved to be absolutely catastrophic for both the economy and the Greek community in total.

Therefore, we managed to implement an excessive program of regulations and changes aiming at not just improving the image of the Greek economy but, also, to create a secure environment that assists the development of the investment activity.

A secure and modern framework in order to take advantage in extent of the productive forces of the country.

And this became achievable despite the fact that many times we found ourselves against views and proposals from our lenders part, which were moving within the limits of economic irrationality.

I, also, believe that it is crucial to understand where this irrationality is based on, because we do not see this in the proposals made by the technocrats of the institutions on the table of the negotiations.

It was produced and continues to be produced by the governments, political parties, business associations and a series of public figures revealing it to be the only solution for the country’s exit of the crisis.

It is a position based on the fact that Greece must turn into an economy of intensive labour and support its competitiveness.

We are all aware of the features of such economy.

Wage shrinkage, complete deregulation of the labour market, the elimination of any kind of social protection.

And I welcome you to think, beyond the ideological and political position of anyone.

Can it constitute a viable choice for Greece, such a developmental model?

Ultimately, is this a model which is compatible with a country being in the hard core of Europe?

The answer is firmly negative.

Greece is a developed country with many competitive advantages, an integral member of the European family.

And it is a straightforward devaluation of the country’s potential, the claim that improving the competitiveness of the Greek economy goes through methods that refer not to the European model but to third world developing countries.

That is, by shrinking wage costs and removing any protection for the world of labour.

Our estimation is that if we want to use the competitive advantages of the country, we have to move to the opposite side of this claim.

Greece has all the prerequisites to be an economy of capital and knowledge intensive.

An economy which its production is based on high value added.

Our country has high-quality products, networks, infrastructure, and expertise and, above all, human resources with knowledge and skills which, unfortunately, the crisis and its management policies have driven a part of it to leave the country.

Considering these characteristics of the Greek economy and society, I find it impermissible to block the country’s growth potential and to further improve its competitiveness.

And it is nothing but a fallacy, the position based on the fact that Greece can be a winner in the competition arena on the basis of wage costs.

For this reason, our commitment is primarily to implement reforms that will make the most of these competitive advantages.

To create new work positions, with stable working relationships and decent wages.

To increase the disposable income through salary in order to positively fuel private consumption as a key pillar of the economic activity.

To improve labour productivity, not on the basis of coercion and fear of dismissal, but with the provision of work security and stability, so that every employee to produce and create, utilizing every aspect of their skills and abilities.

The above objectives define our strategy for the next day.

It is the basis on which we choose to unfold the vision of fair development, which will have a positive overall impact on Greek society.

And I am deeply convinced that this is our vision, it is a win-win scenario for everyone involved in productive activity.

It creates conditions of economic growth alongside the existence of a robust framework of social justice, thus creating an environment of stability and security that are essential prerequisites for economic prosperity.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Our constant goal is to improve the performance of the Greek economy, strengthen its comparative advantages and make the best use of even the last euro of the Greek taxpayer.

Today, the state becomes faster and more amicus in attracting new investment, but without making concessions on issues of equal treatment and environmental protection.

A notable example is the simplification and acceleration of business start-ups through the new one-stop e-service.

Reforms in the tax mechanism, public administration, product markets, the insurance system and the banking sector have brought Greece among the leading countries in terms of reforms, according to the OECD’ report ‘Going for Growth’.

It is, also, admitted by the World Bank and other international organizations.

Unemployment has maintained its downward trend, and even in the last two years the balance of jobs is positive by 250,000 jobs.

These are positive developments, but we do not stay there.

Because we wish to accelerate the pace of devaluation and this will be completed through the recovery of both domestic and foreign investment.

Greece is far below the EU average as a percentage of investment on GDP.

And in order not to consolidate this trend as a development gap, we must achieve the European average in the medium term.

That’s where our focus lies.

And it is analyzed in a grid of actions and tools, such as:

  • the Development Law,
  • the enhancing of liquidity and the banking system,
  • the utilization of the NSRF and the Juncker program,
  • cooperation with the European Investment Bank and other international organizations,
  • the increase in funds for the Public Investment Program for the third year in a row,
  • the restart of major projects and the diffusion of economic dynamism which they create for a number of professions;
  • The emergence of our comparative advantages through an integrated development planning that is at a national and regional consultation level and is now leading to its completion.

As a culmination of all this effort, the conclusion of the second evaluation occurred in order to close definitively a period of uncertainty, giving more clarity about the necessary relief measures that our partners are bound to take immediately after the end of the program, in one year from now.

But also giving a grid of concrete actions to support growth.

But most importantly, our partners are strong commitment to do anything needed in order for Greece to end the support programs, in one year from now.

To be able to self-fulfill its obligations and consequently to determine independently its economic policies.

And how is this achieved by the June 15th decision?

More specifically, combining the appropriate expansion of bond maturities with the setting of the gross financing needs and locking surpluses around 2%, for the first time, it draws a clear outline of the sustainability of the Greek debt which is accompanied by the guarantee of the partners to take additional measures to ensure it in all cases.

This, in turn, has allowed the burden of the agreement to shift towards the side of growth and the specific measures for its enhancement, such as the creation of a development bank, the emergency access of Greece to specific financing lines, and especially the creation of a special reserve to support our exit to markets.

Therefore, it is very important to emphasize that the issue of debt, after these decisions, will no longer be regarded as an one-dimensional, an accounting issue for settling debts, but on the contrary it has been clearly understood and expressed that the issue of sustainability is primarily a question of economic growth and repayment ability of reasonable amortization and interest rates on an annual basis.

Briefly, those who will now see Greece’s debt will not judge its viability on the basis of the ratio of debt to GDP, but the country’s ability to meet its annual financing needs.

And all of this, combined with the determinative decision of the Eurogroup in May 2016, to meet the annual financing needs of 15% of GDP, forms a framework for guaranteeing the prospect of sustainability of Greek debt.

And, as it seems, this will make our country capable of borrowing from the markets before the program ends in August 2018.

You will ask me that did not this exist in 2015?

If you did not claim a better deal?

My answer is clear and absolute.


None of the above existed.

Neither the depth of the reform effort we have been making these two years.

Mostly, however, there were no commitments which I described above in relation to the prospect of debt sustainability, but also the commitments to change the development strategy.

For this reason, Greece will not enter the markets protected and for communicative reasons.

It will enter the markets with its own strength and in terms of a viable perspective.

That is why Greece will not seek a credit line in the summer of 2018 with new commitments, that is a covert memorandum to bid farewell to the program, but after the decision on June 15th, we are positive that it will exit clearly and will bid farewell to the memorandums.

And as a matter of fact:

Markets welcomed very positively the June agreement and this was reflected in the interest rate levels of Greek bonds found at their lowest levels since 2009.

We have recently been upgraded by the Moody’s rating agency and our economy’s prospects have changed positively.

The investment interest concerning Greece, which has been intense for some time, has become even stronger.

Investors have now learned to “read” and politically weigh Eurogroup decisions and are therefore ready to return dynamicallyto the Greek market.

From our contacts we know that investment interest is now crystallized to specific demands, especially in areas where we have natural advantages such as:

  • Energy and Renewable sources,
  • Transport and transit trade,
  • primary production and the manufacturing industry,
  • tourism
  • and our research centers and skilled human capital.


And from this podium, I urge the investment community to come to Greece.

Investors to take advantage of the opportunities, it offer. To invest and support our great effort.

Now. And not in the future.

Because you know if we always wait for the future, then we are in danger of losing the present. And our present, here and now, shows us that the country’s course will only be upward.

Because the adjustment program is now coming to an end, and it is this government that will undertake the task of rapidly completing it. Without delays and without unnecessary ambiguity.

It is now time for Greece to rise again.

To no longer stand as the patient of Europe. And it has the potential to do so. It has proven this for the past two years.

And it has to continue on that road. Especially for young people. For the next generation who wants to live and create in their homeland.

Especially with respect to our young scientists, we focus on reversing their escape abroad, through specific actions that support research and innovation in our country and allow them to be distinguished with claims in their areas of expertise.

Our country has great human resources in the fields of science and research, and despite austerity, research spending has increased by 30% in 2016.

The Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ELIDEK) in the same direction will provide funds totaling € 240 million for the period 2016 – 2020, of which € 180 million comes from European Investment Bank funding and € 60 million EUR from the PIP.

Therefore, dear friends, Greece thanks to its efforts and the agreement reached for the debt, is turning page, is now based on a modern, extrovert production model, guarantees the smooth functioning of the institutions and promotes a fairer growth model aimed at the production of wealth but also fair distribution.

This is the safest way of defending the democratic model and this is what Europe needs today.

European integration as a prospect of security and prosperity for European peoples today is at the core of its democratic legitimacy and it is at one of the most critical periods in its historical path.

The enemies of democracy, such as extreme xenophobic attitudes, demagogy, economic and social inequalities, erode the belief in the European vision from the inside and exacerbate the negative impact of external challenges such as the refugee issue and globalization.

Now more than ever, coordinated actions are needed towards a more progressive direction, and I can with cautious optimism say the currents of change exist, and new correlations are shaped, strengthened and come to the fore.

Europe as a case concerns the collective perspective of its peoples and is not limited according to the conservative perception inside the boundaries of the economic or geographic space.

We need a progressive revolution against the one-dimensional and endless austerity that the conservative hegemony has imposed and seeks to consolidate as an inalienable fate.

Both Greece and Europe as a whole need a comprehensive, long-term development strategy that will first and foremost support human capital and inspire the life plans of young people in this continent in a highly competitive and volatile globalized environment.

The support of labour and rights as well as restoring the European social model will hold the social cohesion and restore people’s beliefs in the European values.

Greece regains its credibility, its voice strengthens and participates with constructive proposals on all crucial issues that are under way.

Our return to regularity with steady steps and the deepening of reforms and productive transformation will be accompanied by the confidence of the international community, investment will recover and the economy will grow under sustainable conditions, ensuring decent work and prosperity for its citizens.

This vindication, our struggles and the losses of one almost wasted decade deserve.

Thank you.