National Press Club

Greek economic minister cites positive trends, investment opportunities

June 21, 2017 | By Lorna Aldrich | lorna2@verizon.com

Greek Minister of Economy and Economic Development Dmitri Papadimitriou  speaks at a National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker event June 21.

Greek Minister of Economy and Economic Development Dmitri Papadimitriou speaks at a National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker event June 21.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Greek Minister of Economy and Development Dmitri Papadimitriou cited current positive trends for his country's economy and sketched plans for future development at a Headliners Newsmaker event at the National Press Club June 21.

Papadimitriou said he expects 2 percent economic growth in Greece this year. However, he said, “In order to have a more robust growth, we need more investment and expansion of exports,”which he indicated “is the reason for this visit.”

He came to the United States to participate in a forum in New York sponsored by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and the Athens Stock Exchange to promote private investment in Greece. Simor Anastasopoulos, president of the chamber, who also spoke, accompanied the minister.

“We have turned the page after seven years of austerity.” Papdimitriou said.

He listed positive developments in industrial production, exports, companies’ profitability and a “dramatic increase” in tourism. Greece expects 30 million arrivals this year, three times its population, for a second record year in a row, he noted.

The recent review of the Greek economy by international lenders and the resulting agreement for financial aid “provide for a new opportunity to move to a new growth mode,” he said. International lenders agreed to a disbursement of 8.5 million Euros to help Greece meet its obligations, he reported.

Papadimitriou called the agreement a “road map to fiscal balances,” meaning a surplus of government revenues over expenditures of 1.75 percent of gross domestic product this year, 3.5 percent next year and a future average of 2.2 percent.

The agreement also makes European leaders “partners in a way of the growth for Greece” and would allow for the creation of a national development bank that could draw funds from others in the Eurozone, as well as international development banks, he said.

After noting that negotiations never yield everything parties want, Papadimitriou said the agreement, “came at the expense of additional measures broadening the tax rate and streamlining pensions” partly offset by support for children and other targeted programs.

The minister described a growth strategy for the Greek economy focusing on its well-trained work force to create high value added and knowledge-based goods and service. He called this a new production model of producing tradeable goods -- not borrowing and spending by the public sector.

He called the strategy an export-led growth model, which would reorient companies toward exports but would also include significant structural reforms in markets and such measures as streamlining processes for licensing and incorporating.

Medical, religious, cultural heritage and thermal-springs tourism could be further developed, he proposed.

Scientists working in information technology have good ties to Silicon Valley firms, he noted.

Greece’s transportation logistics also offer growth opportunity, he said. In particular, he cited the nation’s ports, including Piraeus, which the Chinese firm Costco has leased on a long-term basis.

Anastasopoulos said that those attending the forum in New York “believe Greece needs to be heard. This was a public-sector crisis we had in Greece; the private sector remained extremely vibrant.”

In answer to a question, Papadimitriou made the same point by noting that problems in Spain and Portugaul arose in the private sector, including housing, but that Greece had more to do to recover from a public-sector crisis.