Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis participated today, via teleconference, in a discussion with JPMorgan Chase Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Dimon, at an investment roadshow held in New York.
Referring to the course of the Greek economy and the government’s priorities, the Prime Minister noted:
You mentioned the cover story of the “Economist”, and I remember another cover story of the “Economist” that had a helicopter overflying the Acropolis. And the title was “Acropolis Now”, a clear reference to “Apocalypse Now”, a movie of the 70s, and I couldn’t note but reflect on the progress that we have made since, and especially since 2019, I do think that what we have achieved on behalf of the Greek people has been significant. And of course, investors who sort of believed in our story from the beginning also benefited tremendously from the success story of Greece. We came into power in 2019 facing many, many legacy problems, but we were very clear from the beginning that we needed to put the economy on a sustainable growth track without endangering our fiscal position.
We’ve done so also by changing the growth fabric of the economy. This is no longer an economy that is primarily still driven by consumption, but it is much more driven by investment led growth. And if you look at the jump in foreign direct investment over the past years, it has been remarkable.
I remember when I first went to Davos as a Prime Minister in 2020, it was difficult for me to pitch our growth story. Now it is obviously much easier, and there is a much greater interest by foreign investors across sectors to invest in Greece.
I want to focus on the distinction between policies and politics, because in our case, politics never dominated the public debate in a sense that we were not too ideological. We focused on practical solutions that actually worked. We acknowledged mistakes whenever we made them. And I think this is also the way to rebuild trust, which is a fundamental ingredient for the progress of any country.
I think this trust was rewarded in the recent elections. We delivered on our promises by always focusing on the grievances of real people.
And that is why all our social policies and whatever surplus we managed to produce was always targeted towards those in greater need.
Finally, just as an introductory remark, unlike many other European countries, we have a stable government with an absolute majority, with still a lot of support.
And we have a clear runway ahead of us in the sense that we don’t have elections, we have the European elections, but they’re not going to change the fundamental dynamics. At the same time, I remain as committed to reforms as I was back in 2019. So my commitment is full throttle on reforms, but always focused on fiscal discipline.
Regarding government reforms and the goals it has set for its second term, Kyriakos Mitsotakis mentioned:
Anyone who’s leading a big organisation, or in my case, has a leadership role to play, knows that complacency can be lethal. There could be nothing more dangerous for us saying, okay, we won a second term, we still have a huge lead in the polls, we’ve got investment grade, we can afford to take the foot off the gas pedal. I’m doing the exact opposite. I’m doing all the hard reforms now.
So we are fully aware that we still need a lot of work to do on competitiveness, improving the business environment. We place significant emphasis on justice reform. It’s not acceptable how long it takes for a case to be sort of tried in Greece. We just approved at the Council of Ministers an important legislation to streamline the way our courts work and how do we distribute the labour force within our courts. And of course we will look at sort of new opportunities to sort of leapfrog whenever we can. Digital was a case when we introduced the Gov.gr, which is our central interface with the state, is now the second most popular Greek brand.
I’ve set very clear targets. And my number one target is real wage growth, because we know that still we’re facing the cost of living crisis. And as unemployment is coming down, wages are coming up. This is good, and it’s good also for business. And they will need to pay more to attract better talent and they can afford to do so because I lowered their taxes. So the deal with business was very clear for me from the very beginning. I lower your taxes, both corporate taxes and dividends. I simplify regulation. You benefit from the overall hallow effect of Greece doing well. I’m sure your audience recognises. But you also have responsibilities, primarily towards your employees. You’ve got to pay them better than you did in the past and you’re forced to do so because you’re looking for talent.
With regard to tackling populism, the Prime Minister stated:
Two lessons from our dealings with populists, because we’ve had sort of some similar experiences which I think need to be very much listened to by every sort of mainstream politician. First of all, never confuse your opponents with the people who vote for them. The grievances upon which the populists feed are real and need to be acknowledged. The second, I would argue, is don’t overplay your successes, especially when it comes to the economy.
From his part, the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, stated:
“Greece has embraced a healthy path to economic growth, supported by sensible policies and impactful reforms, and has achieved an impressive drop in its debt to GDP ratio. The strong interest that you now see from the international investor community in Greek companies is a testament to the vibrancy of the private sector locally, and an important step in sustaining growth in the future.”