Mitsotakis’ Recipe for Greece: Grow, Grow, Grow

FILE - Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – With his new government full speed ahead in the depths of a searing summer, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament his simple plan to speed a slow recovery from a  9 ½-year economic crisis is to grow out of it.

He said he would start major projects stymied by the former Radical Left SYRIZA of then-Premier Alexis Tsipras whose government was riddled with hard-core elements wanting to keep out foreign investors he said were critical but as he did little to bring them, including raising the corporate tax rate to 29 percent.

Reiterating his election pledge for a “rebirth of the middle class,” Mitsotakis told parliament he would cut by 20 percent the hated ENFIA property tax surcharge without affecting the bottom line required by the country’s creditors after the Aug. 20, 2018 end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($366.21 billion.)

With savings and growth initiatives, he added, “We will make Greece a pleasant surprise for Europe,” the German news agency Deutsche Welle said in a report. German banks put up the bulk of the bailouts and German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on harsh austerity.

Mitsotakis said his plan will bring higher growth after 2020 and said until then that fiscal targets agreed by former Premier Alexis Tsipras wouldn’t be undercut, including a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP.)

That doesn’t include, however, interest on the debt, the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, social security and some military expenditures and was built partially by delaying making payments to individuals and businesses owed money by the state.

Visiting Athens earlier, the Eurozone’s rescue fund head, Klaus Regling, said Mitsotakis’ growth-friendly policy was “positive” but the question remained as to how Athens would cope with “less revenue.”

Tsipras urged the new Cabinet not to privatize Greece’s key state-controlled Public Power Corp., which has arrears of €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) from bills left unpaid as his party sought to curry favor with lower-income people who at times didn’t have to worry about having their electricity cut off if they didn’t pay, essentially making it free for them.

Mitsotakis has spoken of privatization of the utility’s power networks and the search for a strategic investor and said he will reboot the sale of Hellenic Petroleum, the country’s biggest oil refiner, and has vowed to press ahead with an €8-billion investment plan for Athens’ abandoned Hellenikon airport, a scheme blocked by SYRIZA.

“Hellenikon will soon become the symbol of a new Greece of … extroversion and innovation,” he said.