Anticipating that an accelerating vaccination program will beat back the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece is putting together a program for economic recovery ahead of European Union aid of 32 billion euros ($38.83 billion.)
“We are among the first countries to submit our program and we’ve already started to implement some of the reforms and investments,” Finance Minster Christos Staikouras told Bloomberg financial news agency in an interview.
He said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who wants to lure more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) scared off by the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA, is also planning labor reforms and wants to give laptop computers to students.
Instead of waiting for the cumbersome EU delivery program, Staikouras said that Greece is “covering initial costs with our own resources,” after he earlier said state coffers were running low over subsidies to workers laid off during lockdowns and to prop up their closed businesses.
Greece's economy shrank some 8.2 percent in 2020 when the pandemic was raging and fear gripped everyone, most locked at home, stores closed and revenues in free fall.
Greece was beginning to speed a faster recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that required three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($395.6 billion) that ended on Aug. 20, 2018.
The government optimistically expects 3.6 percent growth this year and 6.2 percent in 2022 as people shake off the lockdown and stores and tourism opens in hopes of a better summer and year.
Greece is also looking to the continuation of the European Central Bank’s pandemic emergency purchase program, known as PEPP, and a successful vaccination program to push growth, the report said.
Staikouras said the goal is to reinvent the economy to be more resilient and not rely so much on tourism but have other initiatives and that once normality returns – if ever – that, “Our intention is to continue a prudent, balanced and sound fiscal policy, which includes permanent reductions in taxes and social insurance contributions.”
“The Greek government will take all the necessary initiatives and make all necessary decisions to preserve and improve, in all aspects, the current status of all its government securities,” Staikouras said.
Greek banks are still buried under bad loans although many have been sold off to vulture collectors hounding people who can't pay because of the effects of austerity and the pandemic.