Bold plan needed for ‘long’ crisis

The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) called on the Finance Ministry yesterday to adopt a politically bold plan aimed at helping the country get through a «long and deep» crisis. In a letter sent to National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, the federation’s plan focused on social and employment measures while also addressing ways to secure growth and structural reforms. «Greece can get through the crisis without massive costs as long as we finally decide to do all those things we have not been bold enough to do in past years,» said Dimitris Daskalopoulos, SEV’s president. As the global economy slows, Greece expects gross domestic product growth to drop to an annual pace of 1.1 percent this year from about 2.6 to 2.9 percent in 2008. The government, however, has almost no room to shield the economy with any fiscal stimulus, unlike most of its European Union peers, due to years of high budget deficits and a massive public debt. Social and employment measures outlined by SEV include increasing the number of households that qualify for low-income funding programs and providing training programs to boost employment among the young and women. Daskalopoulos said Greece can be saved from suffering any large impact from the downturn to its labor market but warned this can only be done if everyone works together in a committed and organized manner. According to Greece’s EU Stability and Growth Program, submitted to Brussels last week, the country’s unemployment figure is seen as rising to 8 percent this year. SEV’s proposed structural reforms include tackling tax evasion, opening up markets to competition and reducing bureaucracy – the factors foreign investors cite for staying away from Greece. «To avoid the excessive deficit procedure (being launched against Greece) we need to obtain European support in a credible manner,» added Daskalopoulos.

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