Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the positive prospects of the Greek economy and the reasons for investing in it with executives of Keidanren, Japan’s national business and industrial associations body, in Tokyo. The Prime Minister, accompanied by the Greek delegation, was received by Director Toshiaki Higashihara (President and CEO of Hitachi) and addressed the members of Keidanren.
“This is the first visit of a Greek Prime Minister to Japan since 2005. But the main purpose of my visit to Japan and the main purpose of the meetings that we will be having over the next two days is to make the point that we have been able to overcome this crisis, that the Greek economy now is on a dynamic path and on a high-growth trajectory. That we’ve been able to implement a series of very important structural reforms which have made Greece a much more interesting and I would dare to say attractive investment destination for foreign capital. And indeed, if you look at our economic performance over the past three years, I don’t think many would have placed a bet in 2019 that Greece would have been one of the fastest growing economies in the Eurozone, as indeed we have been over the past couple of years,” stressed Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his remarks/speech.
Greece indeed has been able to turn the corner.
The Prime Minister referred to the new Greece that has left behind the years of crisis and is on a growth path as a result of the reforms implemented by the government and the policy of reducing taxes while maintaining fiscal balance.
“And if you look at our public finances, I would dare to argue that we have left the years of the fiscal crisis behind us for good. We have seen the fastest decline in the debt to GDP ratio of all European countries. We are projected to produce a primary surplus in 2023. And in spite of the fact that we will be having an election in the next months, it’s scheduled at some point within the months of the spring, either in April or in May. We remain particularly disciplined in terms of managing our fiscal policy,” pointed out Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Referring to the improvement of the investment environment, the Prime Minister stressed that: “Comparing 34 OECD countries, the Economist Intelligence Unit argued that Greece saw the biggest improvement in the business environment among 81 countries between 2019 and 2022. And that analysis looked at 91 different economic indicators”.
The Prime Minister attributed the rise of foreign direct investments in the country to the positive performance and the prospects of the Greek economy: “And what we saw as a result of all these important changes was a significant increase in foreign direct investment into the country. We had a record year in 2021. We had a record year in 2022. Microsoft, Google, Amazon all have committed significant capital to Greece to build data centers. They’re also looking at investing in our technology ecosystem”.
Consider Greece as an investment destination, to the extent that you’re interested in investing in our part of the world.
The Prime Minister urged Japanese businesses to invest in Greece, explaining the reasons why they should do so.
“Consider Greece as an investment destination, to the extent that you’re interested in investing in our part of the world. I think it is a combination of three things: a prudent fiscal policy which cut taxes, but without endangering the fiscal discipline of the country, significant reforms on all fronts and the fact that we’ve cleaned up our banking system”, said the Prime Minister.
“Overall, the Greek economy has become much more extrovert than it was ten years ago. If you look at exports as a percentage of GDP today they already exceed 40% exports of goods and services,” he added.
Referring to the digital transformation accomplished in Greece, he stressed that: “We have significantly invested in making sure that we facilitate the interaction of citizens and businesses with the Greek Administration. In 2022, we had over one billion, that is, one billion digital transactions with the public administration citizens and businesses interacting with the government through our www.gov.gr site”.
“And I fully expect that we will reach investment grade within 2023, and that will open up new possibilities also for Japanese capital to be redeployed in Greece over the next years”.
The Prime Minister stressed that the recent upgrades of the country’s credit rating by the international credit rating agencies and the fact that the country is one step away from investment grade open up new possibilities for investments.
“Before the Greek financial crisis, Japanese companies bought nearly $10 billion worth of Greek assets per annum. The moment the crisis struck and we lost investment grades, this essentially dropped to zero. So we went from 10 billion to zero. Now we are literally one step away from investment grade. Fitch upgraded us two days ago to one notch under investment grade. And I fully expect that we will reach investment grade within 2023, and that will open up new possibilities also for Japanese capital to be redeployed in Greece over the next years,” he said.
Referring to the elections that will be held in spring, the Prime Minister pointed out: “I believe that the rating agencies are still looking at the political situation. They’re waiting for the elections to take place. As I told you, we will have elections over the next months. I think we’re extremely well positioned to win that election. This is what all polls indicate. And I think that once the political situation in Greece is resolved, should things go according to plan and we continue our work, I think it will only be a matter of months until we reach investment grade”.
Greece has a very important role to play in this new energy architecture that is being developed in Europe
Kyriakos Mitsotakis also highlighted the role that Greece can play in the new energy architecture that is being developed in Europe. On one hand through the development of infrastructures that upgrade the country’s role as an energy transport hub and make it a provider of energy security in the wider region, and on the other hand through its own hydrocarbon explorations. He stressed, at the same time, that Greece is investing in the further penetration of renewables in its energy mix.
“We are investing significantly in our regasification facilities in Greece, in particular in northern Greece. And we aspire to be an energy exporter and a provider of energy security, at least for our Balkan neighbors. For the first time, we’re actively exploring the possibility to discover natural gas in an area southwest of Crete. Research is being led by ExxonMobil and the first findings are very, very promising”.
“We also have a very, very important role to play in the new renewables landscape that is being developed in Europe. Not many people know that Greece is one of the top ten producers of electricity from renewables,” he mentioned.
Concluding his speech, the Prime Minister referred to the mutual benefits of further strengthening bilateral cooperation.
“I think there is much to gain through strengthening this cooperation on numerous fronts. So I hope that during my 36 hours in Tokyo, I will have the opportunity to make this case to the Japanese public and to Japanese investors about how Greece is is changing to persuade you to look at what’s happening in Greece in a more systematic manner and to hopefully mobilize more capital from this part of the world to be deployed in our country.
“Some Japanese companies are already quite active in Greece. But I’m sure much more can be done. And the more I think you familiarize yourself with what is happening in Greece, and the more sort of you abandon some of the stereotypes that have accompanied us during the very difficult years of the financial crisis, the more I think you will be intrigued by our story of economic transformation,” concluded Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The meeting was also attended by the Minister of State and Digital Governance Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Economic Diplomacy and Openness Kostas Fragogiannis, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister Alex Patelis, the Deputy Government Spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni, the Secretary General for International Economic Affairs and Chairwoman of Enterprise Greece Vicky Loizou, the Secretary General for Energy and Mineral Resources Alexandra Sdoukou, the Ambassador of Greece to Japan Dimitrios Caramitsos-Tziras, the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Greece Marinos Giannopoulos, the Chief Executive Officer of Export Credit Greece Grigoris Stamatopoulos, the Chairman of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises Dimitris Papalexopoulos and the President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou.