ATHENS – With new Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowing to restart billions of euros of projects stalled by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the man he put in charge of development said Greece will become “the most business-friendly country of the European Union.”
That was the promise from Minister for Growth and Investments Adonis Georgiadis who Euronews the government was eager to get on with major developments blocked by SYRIZA whose hard-core elements are opposed to foreign companies and after an avalanche of tax hikes and new taxes put the corporate rate at 29 percent.
“We are going to reduce taxation and we are going to vanish bureaucracy. We will have a new legislation in August that will change almost all legislation, in order to make doing business in this country very easy,” Georgiadis said.
“We want to say to everybody: “if you want to earn money and make business, now is time to come to Greece”,” he added.
There’s already obstacles to that, however, as Greece must hit fiscal targets mandated under three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($365.48 billion) or automatic spending cuts will be triggered and a debt relief plan that would give the country more time to repay and lower interest rates could be yanked.
The terms were part of a third rescue package in the summer of 2015 for 86 billion euros ($96.41 billion) that former Premier Alexis Tsipras sought and accepted after saying he wouldn’t because it came with more crushing austerity measures he swore to reject but when implemented.
Tsipras also dipped into the country’s primary surplus for 1.7 billion euros ($1.91 billion) to finance pension bonuses and tax cuts after slashing benefits and raising taxes, a last-minute gambit that failed to win him re-election in July 7 snap elections.
With tourism revenues – which bring in as much as 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 178.61 billion euros ($200.3 billion) expected to fall after five consecutive years of records, Mitsotakis may be hard-pressed to cut the corporate rate to 20 percent over two years as he said.
Georgiadis wasn’t downcast. “The European Union wants to have a success in Greece. We will give success to the European Union. We are proud to be Greeks, we are proud to be Europeans,” he sadded.
Mitsotakis wants to lure back foreign investors but already missed his first promised priority – to immediately start the long-delayed $8 billion development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport.
That is the last crucial link in developments on the capital’s coast that begin in Piraeus, where the Chinese company COSCO which operates the port has also seen a $618 million overhaul, including a new mall, also lagging under SYRIZA’s 4 ½-year rule.
Greece desperately needs investments to revive its economic growth, which the EU Commission forecasts to reach 2.2% this year — with the Bank of Greece warning it could be a difficult mark to hit despite Mitsotakis’ plans to meet a 4 percent goal.
above the 1.4% forecast for the EU28.
He said while cutting taxes he would also raise wages and boost investment and bring jobs with the country still having the highest rate of unemployment in the EU, especially for those under-25, scores of thousands of whom gave up and went to other countries in search of work and a better life, most saying they won’t return even as he reached out to them again.