State Secretary Minister of Information and Communication in the Hellenic Republic, Lefteris Kretsos, was present in Bucharest on Monday, May 23, where he held the conference called “Greece after the crisis. Designing the new identity of the country”. The challenging title of the conference, as well as Lefteris Kretsos’ reputation (he is also a doctor in labor relations and professor at the Greenwich University), gathered dozens of people who wished to assist to this event which represented an opportunity to closely meet and understand the specific context of the contemporary events in Greece.
In Lefteris Kretsos’ opinion, who is State Secretary Minister of Information and Communication in Alexis Tsipras’ Government, Greece was recently involved in two crises: the economic one and the one of the refugees, but he wished to underline that these crises do not define Greece and that “we must find a new country brand”.
The senior official of the Hellenic Government also stated that we might say that Greece has been comprised by the third crisis, the European one, related to security and stability, affecting this part of the world.
Regarding the extremely difficult economic situation which his country went through, Kretsos appreciates that the responsibility for this situation belongs to the Greek Governments who, from 2010 to 2014, have failed in presenting the European dimension of the crisis, while „the statements serving the small party interests have helped to spread a negative image of Greece abroad”. Besides, one of the reasons for having this situation was the failure in negotiating a valid agreement, as well as in establishing alliances in other European states having similar problems. As a result, a severe budgetary austerity program has been imposed to Greece, leaving deep scars.
Kretsos mentioned that from 2010 to 2014, out of the EUR 236.8 billion representing the rescue packages and out of the EUR 25.5 billion coming from privatizations, only 1.6 percent were absorbed by the state and by the economy, while 98.4 percent were used to pay the Greece’s obligations to the creditors.
The consequences of the austerity policies were: reducing GDP by 26 percent; public debt increased from 126.8 percent of GDP to 177.1 percent; final consumption expenditure decreased from EUR 221 billion in 2009 to EUR 170 billion in 2014; deposits in Greek banks decreased by EUR 116 billion in the period 2009-2015; from 9 percent, as unemployment was in Greece in 2009, it came to rise to 27 percent in 2014 even to 60 percent for young people aged between 15 and 24 years; 230,000 companies went bankrupt; public sector wages were reduced by 25 to 38 percent; minimum wage in the private sector decreased by 33 percent; pensions have been reduced 11 consecutive times; EUR 13 billion loss on pension funds; 47 percent cuts in pensions paid after the year 2010. Also, 36 percent of the population has come to live below the poverty line, and the percentage of suicides increased by 35 percent. All these have led to strikes, demonstrations, activism, radical syndicalism and spectacular rise in the polls for Syriza party.
“It is sufficiently to have a look on the situation of Greece from 1980 to 2912 and see that the Greek state’s expenditures were much higher than the budgetary incomes, although fees that the Greek citizen was paying were almost the same as for the Germans or French, while the fees owed by Greek companies were even 50 percent smaller than the ones in the Occident”, added the Hellenic Minister.
“When you implement policies based on appraisals, you must expect adverse consequences”
The Greek official wished to mention that “we cannot accuse the Greek people in any way”.
“The totally distorted image which was especially presented in the German Media is that Greek people are lazy, that they are working less than the other Europeans, but all the data indicate that Greek people are working even harder than the other Europeans, excepting British managers”, said Kretsos.
He also reminded that the saving plans designed by IMF didn’t have a historical ground, being designed “by totally ignoring the economic and social structures in Greece”.
“When you implement policies without relying on the knowledge of the historical developments, but exclusively on patterns, assessments and wrong predictions, you have to expect to adverse consequences”, stated the Minister, who exemplified by saying that from 1980 to 2008, 50 percent of the European strikes were in Greece.
Consequently, the economic crisis became a political crisis which caused a radical change of the leadership of the country.
Referring to the targets of the current Greek Government, the Minister Lefteris Kretsos mentioned that these are: ending the austerity policies; dealing with the food crisis; negotiating with the European partners and the other creditors; changing the balance between the social and political forces in the country, in Europe and worldwide; implementing important structural reforms and negotiating the relief of the debt, so that it will become sustainable. Besides, a new positive model for the whole Europe has to be developed.
“The Greek Government makes a huge effort to implement the economic and structural reforms which result from the 3rd Rescue Program dated July 12, 2015. It implements the reforms which the previous governments didn’t promote, although they were consisting in a part of the previous agreements; it also successfully deals with an unseen crisis of the refugees”, stated the senior official who was present in Bucharest.
“One of the greatest successes of the Greek state was to prevent selling the first residence of the Greek family by the Greek banks, while in Spain, for instance, a huge number of families were evacuated by the banks and their residences have been sold”, said the official.
“The Government has managed to keep in force a law which was regulating the payment of the debts to the state by 100 installments, thus making possible the rescue of 1.5 million households and companies which could gradually pay their debts. The international creditors wished to abolish this law, but the Government decided to maintain it”, added the Hellenic Minister of Information. He also said that for the Government is extremely important to depoliticize the administration, to implement the social politics, to fight against the tax evasion, to stop the contraband, to prohibit collective dismissals, to check the account containing more than EUR 300,000 and to the manner in which the European money are spent. Consequently, we can already see increased revenues to the state budget, stated Kretsos, who said that the budgetary surplus is of 1.7 percent, despite the forecasts already made by the European officials.
“Greece returns to the economic stability and attracts foreign investors, being the only stable country that gives confidence to the investors in an unstable part of Europe”, concluded Lefteris Kretsos.
The event placed under the aegis of the Embassy of the Hellenic Republic in Bucharest, held in the beautiful hall of the Library of the Faculty of Letters, took place in the presence of His Excellence Mr. Grigorios Vassiloconstandakis, the Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic in Bucharest, who wished to underline that “the achievements of the Modern Greek Language and Literature Department of the Bucharest University help spread Greek civilization and language not only in this part of Europe but also thanks to conferences, to the congresses it organizes and to the published materials on the entire continent” and he asked the senior official of the Greek Government to convey this in Greece.