IMF chief of mission calls for simpler labor market rules

Hiring and firing in the Greek labor market ought to be easier and simpler, according to the International Monetary Fund’s permanent representative in Greece, Bob Traa.

The head of the Washington-based Fund’s mission in Athens made it clear he was voicing his own personal opinion when addressing a seminar jointly organized by the International Labor Organization and the European Commission in the Greek capital on Tuesday, insisting that hiring and firing employees should be made simpler, regardless of the consequences that may have on entry-level salaries in the market, as well as severance pay and existing restrictions regarding group layoffs.

Priority must be given to the liberalization of the markets and professions, stressed Traa. He went on to include these “necessary interventions” as part of a process for Greece to ensure “sustainable growth” that will rely not on new loans but lend priority to attracting investors with their own funds. He said the country should be targeting investors “who currently think that it is still too hard to start a business in Greece.”

The representative of the International Monetary Fund also spoke of a “very deep recession in Greece and an excessively high unemployment rate that will definitely have to be reduced.” Commenting on Hellenic Statistical Authority employment data, he noted that after a very difficult 2012, “there already is some light in 2013” as the growth in the jobless rate has started to slow down.

“There has been a reversal that is set to continue in the future,” said Traa, arguing that it is wrong to use the year 2000 as a basis for calculations, as the economy was already in trouble then with the very high exchange rate and the country’s entry into the Economic and Monetary Union.