ECONOMY

Economy commissioner Gentiloni backs Greek demands

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Greece must focus on covering its investment shortfall, and the SMP and ANFA profits that European central banks made when buying Greek sovereign bonds could mobilize a significant amount of investment if their use for that purpose is approved, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni has told Kathimerini in an exclusive interview.

The Italian official was about to arrived in Athens on Wednesday night and would have two days of meetings with Greek officials, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

He told Kathimerini he will be discussing Greece’s “incredible efforts made in recent years” and its growth prospects. Talks will also focus on the country’s primary surplus targets: “As economy commissioner, I will support decisions that help Greece to grow sustainably, while respecting the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact,” he stated.

“Greece’s long crisis has taken a toll on investment, which is now about 15 billion euros per annum below the EU average. Unfortunately, recurrent underspending of the public investment budget has also contributed to this,” he acknowledged.

“A key priority would be to strengthen the governance of public investment including through the setting up of a project pipeline facility, while ensuring strong complementarity with private investment. I welcome that the authorities are considering developing such a facility, in the context of the SMP-ANFA investment provision," said the commissioner. 

"On this point, the European institutions have a mandate from the Eurogroup to explore the possible use of the ANFA-SMP profits for agreed investments. We are engaging with the authorities at the technical level and will revert to the Eurogroup in June. If endorsed, this could mobilize additional 0.6 percent of GDP for additional investment annually."

After praising the government’s reform drive, Gentiloni was specific in flagging the areas that require attention: “It is good news the government has started to prepare an update of the National Growth Strategy and I hope this will be very ambitious. Addressing the regulatory burden on businesses and further improving the efficiency of the public administration and justice system are key. Greece should also make the most of its huge potential in areas like agro-food, sustainable tourism, energy efficient technologies and renewables such as wind and solar power,” he said.