Hardouvelis pledges a gradual end to extraordinary measures

By Sotiris Nikas

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis announced on Wednesday that the extraordinary measures taken over the last four years will be gradually abolished, as the Greek economy is reverting to normal.

Addressing an Economist Conference in Athens, the minister also called on political parties to reach some form of consensus, saying it would be preferable “to say less at present about elections and more about the future of our country and finding common ground. The results of our policies will only be long-lasting if we have consensus.”

The ministry is currently examining the efficiency of the applied measures in combination with the social impact they have had, in an effort to proceed to tax reductions or even the abolition of some of the measures.

“We have to definitively establish a tax system that will be simple, consistent and long-lasting, gradually abolishing the extraordinary tax measures and adjusting tax burdens to the standards of the eurozone states,” said Hardouvelis, although he added that “we are continuing to apply a measured and balanced fiscal policy.”

As a basic condition to end the extraordinary measures, he set “the creation of a modern tax administration to support the tax reduction.” In this context the government will take specific initiatives through which “we will not only correct injustices, but also secure crucial financial resources” that are necessary for “reducing the tax burden of law-abiding taxpayers” and “in the future financing some redistributive policies for the benefit of the weakest social groups.”

Among the initiatives the minister cited were the rationalization of fines so as not to issue any that are unlikely to be collected and the creation of an environment that will reward consistent taxpayers.

After meeting with Hardouvelis on Wednesday, the head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), Klaus Regling, stated that “Greece is slowly but steadily becoming competitive again. We see that despite the very high unemployment rate in the country there is a slow reduction to it [and] investments and investors are returning to Greece. I believe this is the way for the markets to regain their confidence in the Greek economy.”