Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras appears confident that the country can enter a “virtuous cycle” of growth, strengthen market confidence and negotiate a deal with its lenders to trim a high primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in exchange for an acceleration of reforms and investments now that a center-right government is in power.
In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the central banker also said that he would welcome a judicial inquiry into what he describes as a “coordinated effort” by the previous administration to malign his character and prevent him from carrying out his duties.
“Success in restarting the Greek economy... will depend on whether the new government, taking advantage of market confidence, adopts policy measures to attract new investments,” Stournaras said. “If these measures are forward-looking and reliable, the Greek economy will soon enter a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle of reliability, credibility and growth,” the central banker said.
This “virtuous cycle” of strengthened credibility, Stournaras said, could lead to rating upgrades, which would be “a key condition to a review of the primary surplus target.” This, he added, would “give the economy the room it needs to grow.”
Commenting on the new government’s plan to introduce a series of tax reductions in order to ease the burden on the middle class, Stournaras said that “changing the fiscal policy mix with a lightening of the tax load (including social security contributions) on workers and businesses is imperative.” He added that while the previous government’s policy of high taxation managed to stem the growth of public debt thanks to large primary surprises, it also suppressed the economy’s growth potential.
The central banker also responded to accusations by the previous administration of bias in favor of New Democracy, saying that he and his family had been subjected to a “coordinated effort... of character assassination... aimed at preventing me from carrying out my duties.”
“Saying that I was targeted is, unfortunately, too mild a description,” he said. “I survived and I protected the Bank of Greece’s independence because... the conspirators found absolutely nothing against me.”
“I am willing to talk about what happened if the authorities call on me to testify,” Stournaras added.