Despite COVID-19, Greece Open for Business, Economic Adviser Says

Αssociated Press

Visitors stand inside Stoa of Attalos, at ancient agora, in Athens, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Greece has entered the third phase of easing lockdown restrictions by reopening ancient sites Monday, along with high schools, shopping malls, and mainland travel.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – A growing recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis stopped in its tracks by COVID-19, Greece is still trying to lure foreign investors and planning more reforms to make the country attractive enough to take a chance on.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ chief economic adviser, Alex Patelis, said wary companies should take advantange of what the New Democracy government is planning and that the country's “economic policies face a subtle, but important, pivot.”

Using Twitter to deliver the message, he said that, “Ample fiscal space and monetary support should be used smartly, and not wasted on handouts or expanding the government footprint in the private sector,.”

The government had pumped 17.5 billion euros ($20.76 billion) into subsidies for workers laid off up to 10 weeks during a March-May lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus and to keep their companies afloat.

The European Union has pledged 70 billion euros ($83.04 billion) in loans and grants to help Greece try to restart the recovery that was just beginning to speed after the Aug. 20, 2018 end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($386.74 billion.)

Patelis outlined key points of the government’s economic policy platform as presented by Mitsotakis at the closed Thessaloniki International Fair that was used as a stage for policy announcements.

That includes cut in social security contributions, a scheme for covering the contributions of the first 100,000 net new jobs created, with additional incentives for the hiring of long-term unemployed; and harmonizing labor laws with International Labor Organization best practices, said Kathimerini.

The government will also present a land-use planning bill setting clear rules for new edifices and simplifying licensing procedures, emphasizing renewable energy, a new public procurement network and further digitizing state offices and bureaucracy.

“We invite global investment to take advantage of our cyclical and structural reforms. Greece is open for business,” Patelis said without explaining why those internal changes would be of interest to them.

Mitsotakis had been wooing foreign investors since he took office in July 7, 2019 snap elections, ousting the anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA that had tried to stymie major developments and had hard core elements not wanting foreign companies in Greece.