The Greek government is eager to leave the state of emergency behind and focus on its promised reforms.
In his Saturday keynote speech at theThessaloniki International Fair, Mitsotakis used “Greece is changing” as his motto and emphasized that stronger than expected growth is providing the government with leeway for more spending for three major target groups: the youth, businesspeople and the middle class.
The center-right prime minister can still count on the support of the last two groups, despite the trials of the pandemic, but is weakest among the young, who are also the most critical of the government’s handling of the 19-month health crisis.
Mitsotakis said, and this has been borne out by the latest data, that the economy will grow significantly faster than the 3.6% estimate, maybe even over 4.2%. He added that, thanks to the government’s efforts, not only were there no jobs lost since the start of the pandemic but that the number of employed in June of this year was 71,730 higher than that of June 2019. There are also 46,000 more businesses and savings have increased by €34 billion, of which €19 billion were additional household savings, he added.
While this was to a large extent the result of reduced economic activity, plus the state’s generous support packages propping up the economy, the pent-up demand has already expressed itself since retail trade opened up in the spring, leading to a 16.2% year-on-year growth in the second quarter of the year.
Mitsotakis did not neglect the constituency he was addressing, announcing major projects that will be financed in the broader Thessaloniki area.
Northern Greece is a stronghold for the ruling New Democracy party and the opposition of many locals to the name agreement concluded by the previous government with North Macedonia made it even more so at the last general election, in 2019. Mitsotakis wants to keep this pool of voters, even though some, to the government’s alarm, have joined the anti-vaccination movement; protests against vaccine mandates in Thessaloniki regularly outnumber those in Athens, a much bigger city.