Greek economic affairs team has work cut out

Greek economic affairs team has work cut out

Athens, October 1, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Zacharias Petrou

A series of important responsibilities along with the crucial portfolio of attracting investment to Greece has been handed to the Prime Minister’s close aide and State Minister Nikos Pappas.

The decision was signed by Alexis Tsipras and was published in the Government Gazette (FEK) this week.

It included the outline of the duties of ministers, including those of deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis who keeps the banking portfolio and the responsibility of coordinating government policy. Dragasakis was also given extra competences, namely those of social policy. However, he will no longer be in charge of negotiating debt relief.

Specifically, the Prime Minister gives State Minister Nikos Pappas power “to assist the Prime Minister in the coordination, monitoring and control of government policy implementation regarding the promotion, acceleration and realization of investments in the country”.

Tsipras will also decide on the members of the inner cabinet that he plans to set up, comprising of 6-7 top government ministers that will be responsible for resolving issues at the highest level.

The recapitalization of banks and making the economy attractive enough to sway investors to Athens are just two tasks from a list of targets the government’s economic, comprising of ministers Eu. Tsakalotos, G. Chouliarakis, G. Stathakis and deputy PM Y. Dragasakis, must reach imminently.

The leadership of the government’s economic affairs team, including Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis and Alternate Finance Minister George Chouliarakis, on Wednesday met with the new head of the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) Maarten Verwey at the finance ministry.

According to a finance ministry announcement said the meeting was held in the context of cooperation for the provision of technical assistance to Greece, both now and in the long term.

Greece and its lenders are expected to agree before the next Eurogroup meeting on October 5, what prior actions Athens will have to carry out to unlock a further 3 billion euros in bailout funding that has been pending since August.

Greece must carry out a total of 201 actions by June 2018, when the program ends. However, 105 of these have to be completed by the end of this year.

The lighter measures would be included in a first package of actions, which would secure the release of another 2 billion euros. However, the measures demanded for the second sub-tranche of 1 billion would likely be much tougher, including pension reform, bank recapitalization and fiscal measures.

The first program review is expected to start in October as planned.

“The goal is to return to the markets,” the Greek Prime Minister told The Wall Street Journal. “If there is a good decision on the debt issue, Greece could return to markets shortly after debt restructuring.”

“The agreement for the first time has a realistic approach; the adjustment is milder,” Mr. Tsipras said, adding that the country was expected to return to growth in the second half of 2016.

Reminders from creditors that the government must act have not ceased. On Wednesday German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said the reforms agreed between Greece and the country’s creditors are very specific and they must be carried out in time in order for the economy to become competitive again and be able to keep up with the rest of the Eurozone.

Greece ranks 81st in the list of the Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 released by the World Economic Forum, lower than countries such as Rwanda, Botswana and Tajikistan.

“Most advanced economies have recovered to their pre-crisis level of competitiveness. Yet some disparity remains, with some Eastern and Southern European countries occupying the lowest rankings in this group: most notable is Greece, which at 81st place is the least competitive economy of this group,” according to the report.