Greek Industrialists Head Says Election Talk Distracting Reforms

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

ATHENS – Growing talk there could be snap elections has made party leaders concentrate more on campaigning and less on critical reforms, the head of Greece’s largest employers association, Theodoros Fessas of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises said.

He made his concerns known after Greek bank shares plummeted on the Athens Stock Exchange after news reports said the country’s creditors have concerns about a mountain of bad loans representing some 40 percent of the institutions’ portfolios.

“The (Greek) economy is in a low orbit. The climate, compared with the period before the summer, has worsened, because we’ve entered a pre-election season … there’s no money to dole out; there’s a need to create wealth,” he said, the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported.

That was in reference to Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, far behind in polls to the major rival New Democracy Conservatives after repeatedly reneging on anti-austerity promises saying he wants to halt pension cuts he agreed to impose on Jan. 1, 2019 and wants to keep giving handouts to low-income pensioners and jobless youth in what critics said was a transparent scheme to buy votes.

Three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($376.02 billion) ended on Aug. 20 after eight years but the lenders, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the economy will need monitoring for years to make sure fiscal targets are hit and that Tsipras doesn’t renege to them they way he did to voters.

His fall in surveys has set off speculation he may call snap elections before they are required to be by October of 2019 to prevent New Democracy from gaining any momentum if the pension cuts go into effect.

Fessas and Tsipras locked horns in July when the after the industrialist chief said the government was discouraging would-be investors critical to the country’s recovery from an economic crisis.

“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.