Greece: ND leader Antonis Samaras offers “another way for ending the crisis”
19. September 2010. | 07:42 07:58
Author: Nikos D.A. Arvanites
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras toured the pavilions of the 75th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday and said the "great prerequisites for the Greek economy" are "competitiveness" and "extroversion" to show that Greek businesses have in them the seed and the strength to be competitive internationally.
Samaras said "we came here for this reason to support the Greek business, in difficult times, in tough times. And to say at the same time that there is an amazing human potential to be utilised, that can really achieve great things when it finds the suitable incentives and the suitable ground."
The ND leader further said "what is necessary in our view is competitiveness everywhere. However, we are in a period where the people are suffocating and choking in this dimension, an economic policy that is neither aligned with the possibilities that we would have, nor with the dreams that we want to have, nor with the future that we are seeking."
Samaras referred to the address he will be making later in the evening on the economy. He congratulated the employees and the staff of the international exhibition, stressing that "we received a picture of the great possibilities appearing for the Greek economy, if we all act together and we all decide together that what is necessary is competitiveness."
Samaras began his visit to the TIF from the administration building where he met with the boards of HELEXPO and TIF. He then visited the pavilion of the Thessaloniki municipality, as well as the city's new town hall later on, where he was welcomed by the mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos.
He was also given a guided tour of the pavilions of the fire brigade and the police and of the city's newspapers "MAKEDONIA" and "ANGELIOFOROS, as well as of the prefecture's pavilion where he was met by the prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis.
Greece's main opposition leader Antonis Samaras said Saturday that the socialist government has mishandled the economy with a wrong policy mix, but it will abide by international lenders' strictures.
Speaking at his first major annual policy speech on the sidelines of the Thessalonica International Trade Fair, the center-right leader said "tough austerity policies could have been avoided had the government acted in time."
However, he qualified that his policies wouldn't breach promises made by the Greek state to international lenders.
"The socialist government has told several lies, the International Monetary Fund and European Union memorandum was not the only solution for Greece, but they were forced into it because they turned a debt crisis into a borrowing crisis."
In May, the PASOK socialist government sealed a €110 billion ($143.5 billion) bailout from the IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank to stave off pending bankruptcy in exchange for unprecedented cuts to wages and pensions, increases in taxes and structural reforms.
"This solution is worse the initial problem, and if Greece had borrowed in January on bond markets it would have had enough cash for the rest of the year at reasonable rate," Mr. Samaras said.
New Democracy leader Mr. Samaras said these imposed policies weren't unavoidable and were driving the cash-strapped economy into a spiral of deeper into recession, increasing inflation and jacked-up unemployment.
"The government signed on to the memorandum without understanding its conditions, like it was a blank binding check, and we are now dependent on our international lender," the New Democracy leader said.
"We need to focus on healthy growth, competitiveness, privatizations, public-private partnerships, exploit public real estate holdings, cut indirect taxes, and restore low earning pensioners entitlements, without breaching the memorandum," Mr. Samaras added.
The opposition leader said he doesn't support the memorandum but looks at alternatives: "We have not taken full account of our comparative advantages as an economy, like tourism, we support the youth and middle class, and entrepreneurship, and we support all these restructuring efforts."
The leader of New Democracy Antonis Samaras, last July presented the economic proposal of the opposition called a “Strategy of hope for ending the crisis.”
New Democracy leader said again that the monitoring by the IMF is not a way out, on the contrary. He tried to shake off labels like “laic” because of his opposition to the Memorandum.
Therefore, he does not speak about rejecting the Memorandum, but about a different mix of policies that will lead to more rapid achievement of the objectives and allow Greece to come out of the supervision of the Triple for two years; the surplus will reach 0%, by 2014 but the country will limit its debt to below 100 percent of GDP.
Mr. Samaras generally adopts the restrictive measures of the Memorandum signed, but said that some reforms are unfair, such as the cuts of the 13th and 14th pension, engaging to help pensioners with low pensions. “The other mix” of policies that Mr. Samaras submitted is based on his assessment that the measures already taken are sufficient to limit the budget surplus.
Among the proposals of Mr. Samaras are 23 measures which were presented several months ago (for opening of closed professions, for restraints between the public and private sector, for support of the construction sector) but also: unifying of state mechanisms such as tax offices, pay desks, urban development, reform of state railways and better utilization of human resources in the public sector. His proposal for the health sector is the introduction of e-prescription of recipes, including private companies in the process.
As for the energy, he proposes investments in renewable energy sources and hydropower plants, establishment of private plants for electricity production of natural gas. Parallel, the state to pay its debts to construction entrepreneurs, suppliers, but also to companies that are waiting for tax return through bonds. Mr. Samaras has offered a new law on investment to be drawn up, which will focus on incentives for the payment of taxes and adopt more stringent measures against the black market
Samaras will be giving a press conference at noon on Sunday.