Samaras Says Growth The Answer

Samaras at AMCHAM

ATHENS – Greece can no longer rely on bailouts from international lenders that are propping up the economy and has to find some way to bring investments and growth and restore competitiveness if it wants to recover, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in outlining his strategy to an audience at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

“Competitiveness means a decrease in taxation. Exports means to realize the potential that we have as a country,” Samaras said, upbeat that Greece will come back.

“The worst is over and the next year will be a year of recovery for the Greek economy. For the first time this year we covered our needs and we will be left with a small amount, we will not borrow – this is the primary surplus. We have so far fended off bankruptcy, having been very close to it. However, we disproved those who expected bankruptcy. Now we are all talking of competitiveness, productivity and extroversion.”

He has been going from New York to Beijing in search of businesses and trying to persuade them to take a chance on Greece as it tries to get out from under a crushing economic crisis that has a deep recession set to enter a seventh year in 2014.

He blistered his main critic, the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party which opposes the terms of two bailouts of $325 billion from international lenders that are propping up the country’s economy.

Greece is surviving on two bailouts of $325 billion from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) but is battling with the lenders over whether there is a hole in the 2014 budget that could require filling with more austerity measures that Samaras vowed to never ever again impose on beleaguered Greeks buried by big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.

Samaras said SYRIZA policies would complete Greece’s ruination. “Growth means investment. Those who fight investments – like in Skouries, Halkidiki – do not want growth. The irresponsibility of those who block growth and investments will be ended.” He was referring to opponents of gold mining in northern Greece who said it would ruin the environment and tourism but which the government said would bring jobs.

He also promised his government now will turn to trying to help the most vulnerable who have been the most affected by harsh austerity measures and not just protect the banks, but said growth is the only way for Greece to get out of a crushing economic crisis.

He said that the coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and their partner, the PASOK Socialists, is “waging a battle for the full protection of the unemployed, the poor and the lower and middle classes … and to achieve a healthy bank credit that does not operate only in favor the banks but of the citizens as well.”

Samaras, speaking on The Time of the Greek Economy, outlined how he said his administration is battling the crisis that began in 2010 and promised a recovery would begin next year and that Greece might even be able to return to the markets. It was locked out after his Deputy Premier, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, imposed 74 percent losses on investors in 2011 when he was finance chief in a former government.

Referring to delayed attempts to unify the country’s disparate property taxes that have resulted in an 800 percent increase in the past several years he said it would be brought together and stay at 2013 levels but with a broader tax base, alleviating 75 percent of households, according to the Athens News Agency.