Tsipras, Greek Industrialists’ Chief Fessas Lock Horns in Dispute

Theodore Fessas, President of SEV and founder and major shareholder of Quest Holdings. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader has gone after Hellenic Federation of Enterprises head Theodoros Fessas after the industrialist chief said the government is discouraging would-be investors critical to the country’s recovery from an economic crisis.

Fessas had also cited a recent Labor Ministry draft bill set for debate in Parliament, legislation that’s opposed by employers groups and unions alike.

“At the same time, there’s an attempt to divide entrepreneurship in the country into ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ The markets will not forgive such double-talk, or the reversal of reforms and (political) polarization. A return to normalcy is not served in such a manner,” he said.

With Greece facing the end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($381.56 billion) on Aug. 20, the government will be at the mercy of the markets and facing years of scrutiny from international lenders.

Tsipras said luring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is key to a comeback but hard core elements in his party don’t want any foreign companies operating in Greece and are fiercely resisting the $8 billion development of the old Hellenikon International Airport site and other major projects.

With Tsipras also imposing an avalanche of tax hikes and raising the corporate rate to 29 percent, prospective investors also being scared off.

Tsipras used his address at a Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) general assembly to attack what he called SEV’s recent attempts to “intervene” in the public debate over scheduled additional pension cuts in 2019 and 2020.

Tsipras said SEV was providing a “signal” over the necessity of implementing more austerity regardless of whether the government can meet fiscal targets set by the lenders, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

“SEV almost always calls for greater anti-social and anti-growth measures (compared to the ones demanded by creditors), in this case, another round of pension cuts,” Tsipras said without mentioning he’s the one who agreed to them, breaking his word not to.

Fessas snapped back that Tsipras is talking out of both sides of his mouth, saying different things to different people depending on what audience he’s trying to please at the moment, and undoing reforms while polarizing the country into bitter divisiveness.

That came after government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos ripped him at a regular press briefing and also referred to major rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose party has taken a big lead in polls after Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity vows.

“In our effort to restore labor relations, we have against us Mr. Mitsotakis, who refers to an outdated eight-hour shift, but SEV as well, which through its unacceptable intervention, insists on pension cuts in 2019, as well as the lowering of the tax-free annual income threshold… SEV’s wholly political motives are proved by today’s statements by the SEV President, who again attacked the government,” Tzanakopoulos said.

Tsipras is frantically trying to wiggle out of a new round of pension cuts he agreed to implement on Jan. 1, 2019 with elections required to be held by October next year but the country’s creditors, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) haven’t agreed.