Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to take a moment of familiarization, as I have just arrived, and the road had many turns, similar to the road the country and the Greek economy followed, until we reach, as we all hope, the final straight, a road not always easy but straightforward, which will lead us to the end of a great adventure.
So I wish to say that it is my pleasure, and my honor, to participate in the works of this year’s Delphi Economic Forum and to be among distinguished personalities of the global political, intellectual and business world. I would like to start by congratulating, of course, the organizers, because thanks to their efforts and their excellent preparation, they managed to re-establish Delphi and, by extension, our country, as “the navel of the Earth”.
It has become the spiritual focus for dialogue and for finding solutions to the development challenges posed by the dynamic evolution of globalization in the economies of Europe and the world as a whole.
This year’s organization, with this international influence and radiation, I thought it was a great opportunity, to present to you some thoughts concerning the new situation that has been created in the country after three years of very important and intensive effort. To present the important conquests, but also to talk about the pending issues that we have before us. And, above all, to analyze as briefly as possible our strategy for the next day and the country’s perspective in the post-Memorandum era.
I will start by referring to the data in the field of the economy, my own and the estimation of the calmest and valid analysts that we can see a spectacular change of imagery.
The recession in Greece, the continuing years of enormous recession, a deep recession, has turned into growth since 2017 and even at a dynamic pace, which is estimated to steadily exceed 2% this year and for years to come. Unemployment has dropped 7 whole points over the three years and although it is still high it continues a downward trend, while the country that has become synonymous with the chronic fiscal derailment has managed to leave last year, last summer, an excessive deficit procedure and, from 2016 onwards, it achieves high primary surpluses each year, much higher than the objectives of the program.
Export and current account data are positive, but most importantly to us, they highlight the rapid reorientation of the country from a consumer model based solely on imports using borrowed funds, to a modern production model based, besides strengthening demand but also in extroversion. A productive model that tracks international trends and exploits the comparative advantages of the country.
Growth, however, requires funding and liquidity. To that end, we have developed a comprehensive planning, including development law, targeted financial tools, incentives, that is to attract foreign direct investment. It also includes a stable banking system this design or, if you wish, the rapid uptake of the available European programs and European funds, which for the first time has succeeded in achieving at such high rates and high levels their absorption of the funds. In the coming months, we have taken the responsibility of presenting a comprehensive development plan for the next day, which specifies the objectives and specific actions required, both at sectoral and regional level.
Significant parts of this planning have already been presented and synthesized, if you wish, in most of the country’s regions, the 10 regional development conferences that we have organized, with the aim of making allies and co-creators of the next day’s development plan for the country. Together with the producers, together with the local authorities, we are discussing ways to maximize the targeting of this development plan but also its effectiveness.
Because growth, friends, unfortunately or fortunately, is not ordered on theoretical grounds, nor is it announced by proclamations. But it needs work, it needs a project, it needs persistence, consultation with the stakeholders, and, as I said, a synthesis of opinions and suggestions concrete that can be implemented in order to highlight the competitive advantages of each place. All of this has been accompanied, over the years, by an extensive program of reforms in the country’s overall economic and institutional environment.
And I have to say that these changes, structural reforms, as we call them, were the first priority in these seven, eight years of difficult adaptation. In three consecutive programs, only the third program set as a priority structural reforms rather than the strong fiscal adjustment that has been in the last three years, but of course it was much smoother than what we saw from 2010 to 2015.
Today, I can say with certainty that after these difficult and often necessary reforms, Greece is becoming a more friendly and trustworthy country in both entrepreneurship and investment. A less bureaucratic country, with a modern tax mechanism, with uniform and fair competition rules, but enhanced social structures for all citizens.
This new situation for the country that comes out of a multi-year adventure, this new situation, I would say, it would not be of worth if I only presented it to you but it is important that today this new situation is welcomed, at all occasions, by our European partners, the OECD, is recognized by independent international analysts as well as by international investors with their confidence in the issues of Greek bonds. Certainly the rating agencies as well, which are upgrading the creditworthiness of the Greek economy. And I would say, it has value that investors are really rewarding the bond markets even when the international juncture is not particularly favorable, as we have seen very recently with our last, second in a row, successful edition.
But I would say that even within the country, we see that all those who had invested in previous years, all those who rushed to invest in a difficult time, are now rushing to strengthen their positions, while new investors take advantage of investment opportunities, new major opportunities in many areas, such as energy, networks and communications, transport and commerce, tourism, agro food production and, above all, I would say in the field of research and the new technologies sector that we must invest in innovation and human capital, if we want to invest in the future.
Greece is now part of the investment planning of states and large multinational companies, and it would not be an exaggeration to repeat something that I have been supporting for a long time, that we are as they say “the next big thing” to investors and markets on the global investment map. However, because I do not get used to speaking Delphic oracles, but I speak directly, there is this picture, but there is also a picture of the wounds of the crisis, which we must not forget them, we must see them in order to cure and overcome them.
Our country suffered serious wounds during the crisis, especially the years of the first two unsuccessful and ineffective programs, as it was proven. The most important consequences, perhaps, I would say, it was the brain drain, the outflow of the most important minds, young scientists, highly skilled people and, of course, the unemployment among the young people, which increased dramatically due to the deep crisis. On both fronts, we have tried to provide answers by strengthening training and reintegration programs in the workforce and by providing tax incentives, grants and increasing resources for research and technology so that not just avoid depreciation of the human capital of the country, but also to emerge dynamically in the competitive field of the 4th industrial revolution, namely in the field of innovation, artificial intelligence and creative human capital. Why do we believe that this is the only way we can win the lost ground of the productive hardship caused by the deindustrialization of the last 40 years, but also heal a significant part of the big wounds inflicted by the crisis in our country.
Over the last three years, we have given a big and often unequal fight, in adverse circumstances, with the aim of holding the country and restoring the economy to its feet. Responding to the historic call, not only to stop the disaster but also to heal and this is the hardest, to cure the causes. Correct the injustices and, above all, lead the country into the future it deserves. It is true, and important and difficult work has been done, and now, perhaps, we are at the most critical point in this effort. That is, at the point where the thread of termination is visible and what is needed is to prepare properly the next day for the country. That day when we will have left behind the painful experience of the memorandum and national folding and with faith in our forces, we will come to the forefront and realize the potential of our country, with the benefits of spreading equitably to the society as a whole.
This is, because it is not just a statement but it is a strategy, for us the fair development and if you wish this is the historical pending we have to fulfill. In order to achieve this, a new concept of governance and a new culture, a new culture in the political system, a new culture of governance, a renewing air, I would say in political things that will make sense of the value of democratic participation and inspire again trust for citizens for institutions, for political institutions.
You know, over the years we have been tested by the Greek people, but also the international public opinion. A different ethos and a different style in managing responsibility, but also in managing the public interest. Far from the pathogens of the past, away from the interweaving of interests and the customer logic we met and paid as a country in the past. But we also gave critical examinations in managing international crises.
I would say that with our country’s stand regarding the immigration and refugee crisis, we have managed to reap the international praise. We have managed, and above all, our citizens have managed to advance humanity and solidarity against domestic conservatism, which has constantly fueled xenophobia and racism, and which is also incapacitating many Central European countries today, creating deadlocks. Of course, we managed to promote our country – in a critical region, a fragile region, destabilized, I would say the whole region – as a pillar of stability and security, knowing very well where it belongs and what it wants as a force of cooperation and co-development in the Balkans and peace in the South-Eastern Mediterranean, while at the same time seeking to solve difficult issues, open for years, such as the Cyprus issue or now the issue of the name with our neighbors, our northern neighbors, on our own initiative, to make Greece the stability factor in the Balkans and the wider region. So we gave and still give exams both outside and inside.
Similarly, with our legislative interventions, on social rights, we have removed from our margin our fellow citizens who have been exempt and stigmatized for years. But the passage in the future does not only require you to look ahead. It requires and arranges for collective memory and pending, open accounts with yesterday.
Our country lived through a period of rapid, very fast but sadly inflexible growth, which collapsed sharply, causing a series of particularly negative consequences. This collapse has left the world unemployed, poor and indebted, while at the same time some have capitalized on the profits they have gained through unfair means. Equally suddenly, therefore, we were unprepared to a regime of suffocating surveillance, with weights falling into the majority of a world that was not. It was nothing.
Now we are at the end of this adventure, at the end of this tragedy – because it was a tragedy – after almost eight whole years, but this end will be incomplete and will persecute us forever if justice is not attributed.
The tragedy of the Greek crisis must be closed by the performance of any liability, because we must not simply to proceed with the illusion that it will simply be forgotten.
Only in this way will we translate the bitter experience of the memoranda into a lesson and national self-awareness, so that we will not repeat the same mistakes in the future.
We want to root out the systemic causes of corruption and not to make small-plight in the cases that arise.
And of course this is not just a task, it is – I would say – a work of justice, exclusively a work of justice and not of political forces, and justice must proceed, with all the guarantees of the rule of law provided by the Constitution of the country.
However, our position requires that we too must be even stricter than our own actions.
We do not attempt to politicize ethics, and everyone must be judged on the basis of their positions, achievements and contribution to public life, but it needs special attention at all times so as not to deviate from our values.
Because, you know, in the course of the political transition, unfortunately, a government-elite, uncontroversial, I would say, who often, with arrogance and cynicism, treated the popular feeling with methods of appeasement, relief and communication disorientation.
Conversely, we respect popular sentiment, precisely because we respect our own consciousness and our constitution.
So we are preparing for the next day, because we are now going through the last steps towards the completion of the program.
The framework of the memorandum that will govern our relations with our partners and our lenders from now on is an open and dynamic field, it is still an open and dynamic field, a field under development and crucial decisions will be made next time.
We have made it clear that we will respect the commitments we have made, but, at the same time, we are claiming the indisputable recovery of our autonomy in the definition of economic policy.
The ability to set our own reformist proposals on the basis of the needs and characteristics of the Greek economy and on the basis of the views that each time form in the social and political field and win the majority of the preference of the Greek people.
We are, as I said before, in the final stage of our long-term development plan and on the basis of our effectiveness we should be judged by both our citizens and our partners.
We have the human potential and natural advantages as a country to do it.
All this time, we have been defined as a society and as productive forces in the compulsion of the memorandum and loan contracts.
Now that we have proven our credibility, it is time to self-determine our economic strategy and, of course, undertake the responsibility that entails.
And I would say that this should be done not only because we accomplished it, not only because we achieve the goals, not only because we have established credibility, it is also appropriate for national and geopolitical reasons.
We have the human potential and natural advantages as a country to do so.
All this time, we have been defined as a society and as productive forces in the compulsion of the memorandum and loan contracts.
Now that we have proven our credibility, it is time to undertake our self-definition of our economic strategy and, of course, the responsibility that this entails.
And I would say that this should be done not only because we did it, not only because we achieve the goals, not only because we have established credibility, it is also appropriate for national and geopolitical reasons.
Because a strong Greece means at the same time a strong European border. And vice versa. If we want strong European borders and Greece plays a decisive role in stability in the region, we must have a strong, self-sufficient Greece. That is, she can stand on her feet.
We have remained for a long time in the exception regime and we must return to the international stage as an important country – an equal member of the European Union, as a country that is going to be on its feet.
And I am pleased to see that this is what European leaders and officials with whom I come in contact, and that is where the strategy we have co-formed for a complete and self-reliant return to the markets through the creation of the so-called capital stock. The so-called liquidity pillow that we build in partnership with our partners systematically after each disbursement, after each exit in the bond markets, so that in August we will not have the need of any third party to stand on our feet.
There are other views, of course, circulating in the public debate, such as the point of view of using a precautionary credit line. All views are respected, but they cannot be accepted by us – regardless of their intentions – in practice, their implementation entails new commitments and perpetuation of guardianship.
And of course everyone well-intentioned has the right to express their views. But when they are heard from official lips, their insistence, when they are fully aware that this position is neither an official position of the country nor an official position of European organizations to which they are equally accountable, this insistence can only be questioned to provoke its feasibility. Politics or personal does not matter.
In any case, all those who hold positions of responsibility are judged and not only by our views and intentions, but also by the effectiveness in defending our national and public interests.
The next day and the exit from the support programs, largely in addition to the successful completion of the reforms, will also be based on the necessary measures to alleviate public debt. And this is now the commitment of the other side. The commitment of our partners.
With the end of the program, debt relief, I would say, is the culmination of a difficult yet well-designed and successful effort that we complete thanks to the sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people.
An effort that prepared the exit from guardianship and the entering to the next day. Entering the future.
A future that I believe we all seek to be a future of prosperity, social justice and democratic participation.
A future that the citizens of the country can proudly and confidently shape as they have coped despite the overwhelming difficulties and continued to create. To create for their country.
We can only shape this future together and can only belong to us all. So in this sense, and on the occasion of my presence here, I would like to address an open invitation for a meaningful and sincere dialogue. To compose views on the next day of our country.
As you know we need more complex answers when we have complex problems ahead of us.
The ease is not sufficient with which all of us, I do not exclude myself, until yesterday we had decided to give answers.
But now we all know the problems, and we all know the complexities.
If we want to strike on the causes of the crisis rather than the symptom, convenience is not enough.
The easy answer, for example, to reduce taxation, which is definitely to be done, but the easy answer, as a supposedly panacea for solving the country’s problems and without even answers on how this can be achieved without further damages and cuts in the fragile social state, given the country’s fiscal constraints.
These simple announcements, believe me, cannot fool or convince anyone today.
They are obsolete, simplistic and as outdated as they sound.
And finally, they are degrading the production and development capacities of the country in an uncomfortable and insulting way, and some people think that the investors just need a “bait” to sting.
Because both investors and the vast majority of Greek citizens are well aware that the condition for healing the wounds of the crisis and reducing in many cases the unbearable tax, is Greece not to go back.
Greece is not going back to wastage and reluctance, not turning back to the status of corruption and interdependence, not turning back to the policies that led the country to deficit and international disregard but steadily moving on the path of productive reconstruction, the consolidation of public finances, the path of transparency and accountability in the management of public money, the path of reforms in the State and the Public Administration, the path of catharsis and justice.
This is the only condition.
With these thoughts, I would really like to thank you for the great honor you have given me, your invitation to speak today and wish every success in the sessions and this Conference truly become a leading institution not only for Greece, but an international institution.
Thank you very much