04 Aug The coronavirus has accelerated the need for the necessary reforms
Interview with Mr. Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments of Greece
Business Focus: Greece has drawn global praise for its effective handling of the coronavirus crisis and has embarked on its journey to the return to normalcy. In your opinion, what is the moral of the story for Greece today and in what ways is the boost in reputation paying off and will continue to pay off in the mid-term?
Adonis Georgiadis (AG): The way we did manage to handle and keep the coronavirus outbreak under control is considered a success story. Greece has one of the lowest infection rates in the world. Our government moved rapidly to shutter most activity in the country and to go to full lockdown at a very early stage of the crisis. Now we are focusing on salvaging whatever possible from the current tourism season and to weather the economic impact of the virus crisis. As for the moral of the story, for a society after a ten-year crisis, is the sincere relationship between the political leadership and the citizens. And this can be achieved only with the whole truth that the citizens need to know and be co-responsible for difficult political decisions.
Business Focus: One year has passed since winning the elections and taking office. In the second half of this year you’ve had to deal with an unprecedented health crisis, which may have overshadowed some of the big accomplishments aimed to make Greece one of the most business-friendly economies of Europe. Can you recap some of the new laws to streamline licensing, restructured tax framework and other tax cuts as well as a boost in digitalization of public sector services?
AG: Our government got elected a year ago on an ambitious reform program and the coronavirus has accelerated the need for the necessary reforms. In difficult times stable and responsible governments –as our government- should project optimism and look for opportunities and possibilities.
Our prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has already announced a reduction in labor taxation from next September, and other tax cutting measures will be introduced in order to support businesses and boost the economy. At the same time, the digitalization of public sector services is a form of revolution for Greece -is happening now- as the public sector must be modernized and serve the citizens and the investors. Greece is both business friendly and almost coronavirus free.
Business Focus: The second half of 2019 and start of the new decade in January 2020 saw record levels of investment in Greece cutting across sectors. How would you characterize the landscape today, after the Covid shock and what new incentives are you planning to continue to woo investors? Key sectors with attractive opportunities?
AG: Greece is a low-risk country with a reform government that has an absolute majority in parliament. As Kyriakos Mitsotakis have said, Greece can generate nice, higher returns than in other countries, there is a clear growth story. The only earnest way to attract investors and international capital is to modernize our infrastructure and improve all the necessary conditions so that they can trust us and invest their money. Leaps of progress have been made in Greece in just one year and they are results of hard work with the support of the entire society. In my ministry, we are focusing on reducing red tape, so that the country will remain investment-friendly. Lots of important investors have expressed interest in the areas of energy, infrastructure, tourism, new technologies, and real estate.
Business Focus: The official groundbreaking for the Hellinikon Project took place last Friday (July 3rd 2020), launching works on Europe’s biggest urban redevelopment project, worth and estimated €8 billion. Share with the readers of The Guardian why this is so significant today to Greece and its citizens?
AG: The die is cast. Works had begun for the demolition of the 990 old building and facilities of the property. Everything is going fast and as we wanted. In its full operation, Hellinikon, the largest coastal park in the Mediterranean will create more than 80,000 jobs, 10,000 jobs will be created only during the construction phase. It will be a modern, ecological, environmentally friendly project, a project that will mark the beginning of a new era for Greece as we all envision it. We will would be monitoring the progress of the project and solving problems along the way aiming for its completion and advancing the investment.
Business Focus: Is there a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis in Greece?
AG: Greece has proved that it is capable of carrying out difficult tasks. So, no silver lining after the coronavirus crisis in Greece but as Albert Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”.