Hardouvelis: Reforms should take precedence

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis warned on Thursday that any measures toward lightening the country’s debt would amount to nothing unless structural reforms continue in Greece.

Addressing the 1st Naftemporiki Shipping Forum, the outgoing minister called upon whichever government that emerges from Sunday’s general election to continue on the path of reforms, underscoring that “we should not return to the era of deficits.”

He said that the next Greek government should discuss measures for lightening the debt burden while redefining the country’s relationship with its eurozone partners. Hardouvelis added that the debt is currently being serviced without delays, saying that he does not expect any repayment problems for at least another seven years given that the first big ones are not due until 2022.

For 2014 Hardouvelis stated that the Greek economy is estimated to have recorded a positive growth rate of 0.7 percent, while for this year he forecast that “it is still possible, unless some significant time is lost due to the election process and the new negotiations, to attain a growth rate close to the official target of 2.9 percent of gross domestic product.”

He added that this growth rate “will rely mainly on the economy’s capacity to attract foreign investments, as investments are anticipated to expand by 11.7 percent, including possible investment from shipping. It will also rely on turning toward a new, outward-looking production model.”

The minister argued that it is necessary for Greece to take the initiative in implementing a new reform program that will be based on strengthening the institutions of the Greek economy with an emphasis on: justice, the educational system and the public sector; a further bolstering of competition in the domestic market and structures that will allow for the attraction of new investments; and the gradual application of a program of tax exemptions both for taxpayers and corporations.