‘Enhanced surveillance’ ends

In televised address, PM acknowledges past governments’ mistakes, promises brighter future

‘Enhanced surveillance’ ends

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis marked the end of the enhanced surveillance of the Greek economy Saturday by touting his government’s achievements, acknowledging past mistakes by all governments that nearly brought the country to its knees, attacking the record of the previous left-wing government and promising a brighter future.

“A 12-year cycle that brought pain to citizens, grounded the economy and divided society closes. A new, clear horizon of growth, unity and prosperity for all emerges,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

Greece, burdened by years of excessive spending and in danger of defaulting on its debt, was forced to seek help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in early 2010. The bogus deficit statistics of the conservative government that was ousted in 2009 were exposed; the 2009 budget deficit, instead of the advertised 6% of GDP, was actually 15.4%. The first austerity pact between Greece and its creditors was signed in May 2010.

Severe wage and pension cuts followed, and the country’s economy shrank by more than a quarter. Unemployment peaked at 28.1% in September 2013. A coalition of conservatives and socialists ruled from 2011 to 2015, followed by the leftist SYRIZA in coalition with a right-wing populist party from 2015 to 2019.

In his speech, Mitsotakis attacked the SYRIZA government’s “four years of demagoguery” for “wasting €100 billion” by initially confronting the creditors, and pointed out that since gaining power in 2019, his government has slashed taxes and spent €50 billion to support households and businesses facing unprecedented global health and energy crises.

Greece’s economy is expected to grow at least 4% in 2022 and unemployment was down to 12.1% in June, its lowest level since April 2010. The next important step, said Mitsotakis, is for Greek debt to regain investment-grade rating.

Challenges remain: Debt is still very high and the economy relies too much on tourism and suffers from low productivity. And hundreds of thousands of mostly young, highly qualified people have left the country to seek better job opportunities elsewhere.

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