ATHENS – Greece’s long economic road back from years of international bailouts, harsh austerity, and the COVID-19 pandemic will pay off with investment grade status from ratings agencies after spring elections, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
His New Democracy government has been luring foreign investors and started up the 8-billion euro ($8.7 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon international airport site that was held down by the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA.
Major Information Technology companies have also been opening operations in the country and the economy is coming back, if slowed by high inflation and soaring energy costs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mitsotakis told CNN reporter Julia Chatterley that agencies are waiting until the elections to see what the political landscape will be, saying they want stability he said can be brought only by his return to power.
He said he’s confident he’ll prevail again against SYRIZA although a change in electoral laws pushed through by the Leftists in their last days before losing July, 2019 snap elections removed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament for the first-place finisher.
Barring a coalition after the first round that will almost certainly result in a second election a month so later that the first ballot, coming in the spring.
He said the economy is performing better than expected, which creates more fiscal space to support businesses and households, but not enough to cut a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food, believing voters will back him.
“When they look at our debt as a percentage of GDP, they see that we have reduced it by about 40 percentage points within three years. This was the fastest reduction recorded across all European countries,” he said.
“But we still have money available to support vulnerable businesses and households. That’s why I think our policy was successful, because it always was – and still is – both liberal -in terms of creating development- but also progressive, in terms of our support for the weakest households, and the weakest members of our society,” he noted.
He didn’t explain why he backed away from a pledge to consider lowering the tax on food, his government instead pushing supermarkets to set aside 51 categories of essential items at lower prices.
He said he believed he’ll win again because his government kept all its promises although he stepped back from a number of them and that he supported people in some tough times for them.
“It’s experience in crisis management that counts, so the issues of reliability, stability, predictability are important for Greeks today. For the first time, they feel that the country has turned a page. I don’t think they would want to risk a derailment from that course,” he said.