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Resurrecting the Greek Economy: Great Expectations?

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Elena Kountoura delivering her speech. Seated in the panel: P. Sanfey, Professor Dr. P. Bofinger, John Peet, K. Bitsios, A. Makris, A. Karafillides and A. Andreadis

On Thursday the 9th of July, at a full house down at the spacious Astir Palace Westin Hotel in Vouliagmeni, The Economist and Hazlis & Rivas raised the bar with top of the range speakers and a vibrant audience on a great debate given the importance on all Greece’s issues which affect its economy, its people, Europe and the world at large!

Despite some last minute changes in the programme, all due to the prevailing situation and the persons involved, mainly ministers and top bankers their replacements proved, if I may say so, equal!

The event took place just before the crucial weekend where the Greek prime minister and the minister of Economics Eukelides Tsakalotos had to deliver, make or break!

Introducing the event John Peet, Europe editor, the Economist, stressed that this weekend 10-12 July is indeed the deadline for Greece to deliver and Europe to rise to the circumstances. The Referendum’s result, almost  a week ago (5th of July),  gave some substance to Greece’s prime minister but reality bites! Grexit ante portas and a successful of Greek  come back in 2014 where in tatters; the last six months (with the first ever Greek Left government and its delaying negotiations) being messy, sets a modern Greek tragedy!

George Katrougalos, alternate minister of interior and administrative reconstruction  failed to convince over his and the government’s intentions, stressing though that the government wishes to remain in the Eurozone, strongly criticising the lenders’ tactics. I guess we spectacularly failed as he was trying to convince for the impossible all present: that Europe should change…. He also failed to convince all there on the issue of Greek banks being closed…. He left at the most crucial moment when many wanted to ask him questions!

Professor Dr Peter Bofinger,  member of the German Council of Economic Experts, professor of monetary policy and international economics, University of Würtzburg, delivered the key note address, explaining that there are not easy remedies for austerity in Greece as well as condemning the six months delays in having Greece put forward its proposals…

He mentioned five major issues and stressed that all should pay taxes, including Greece’s shipowners. He was caught totally unaware of what prevails in Greece with the tonnage tax, as I explained how this issue is fully covered being also the best in Europe and he should see his own country’s tax evading shipowners… Simply I asked him to see his own skeletons in the German  cupboard vis-à-vis his country’s shipowners and many many more issues where Germany is on the wrong path!

Elena Kountoura, the alternate minister of tourism, infrastructure, and maritime affairs delivered a short but to the point speech on a subject in which she marvels that Greece continues its success! She insisted on reforms which will lead to development, and pointed out that austerity didn’t change the productive model of Greece in her field. She announced the extension of the Tourism period to 12 months per annum. She was warmly applauded by the 300 plus strong audience.

Peter Sanfey,  regional economist for southeast Europe and Greece, EBRD,  underlines that as yet there are not any investments due to uncertainty surrounding the Greek economy. Trust is the key to investing and at this day and age this is missing from Greece. One important comment he raised was that of consensus among Greece’s people.

Andreas Andreadis took the podium and delivered a stealth-wise speech. Andreadis is the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation and a very active person participating to all Touristic and other economic events! ! Amongst the  issues he mentioned was the proposed tax regime with VAT, the arrivals of nearly 24 million tourists in 2014 with the expectation/forecast that this figure will be surpassed despite what Greece goes through right now. “We are in the Euro and very competitive” he emphatically stressed!

Konstantinos Bitsios, executive vice chairman of SEV-Hellenic Federation of  Enterprises mentioned about the economic stability needed, as well as for the forthcoming agreement over he coming weekend. He mentioned of tough times ahead, mentioning that the major problem is obvious that liquidity is the name of the game.

Antonis Makris, the president of Hellenic Retail Business Association delivered an interesting paper and condemned the capital controls which are 1 centum per week of lost GDP.  He triggered my intervention, and same was appropriately tackled by our side, given the excellent “provocation”.

Last speaker, Alexandros Karafilides CEO from the Olympic Brewery  hopes that Greece will become a successful case study! If we streamline the entire system . He spoke on issues such as vision,   strategies and  specific tactics to improve development having the right people at the right of the Astir    place/position.

I must admit that the Q&A time was one of the best ever witnessed in similar events.

Nektaria Passarivakis, the President and CEO of Hazlis & Rivas / The Economists events for Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Southeast Europe delivered the closing remarks and wished all present  to continue and improve Greece avoiding defaults and unnecessary hiccups. Her entire team did their best to create one of the best ever events!

An excellent networking reception followed with excellent drinks and dips at the mezannine terrace of the hotel overlooking the sea and witnessing the sun set, in one of Attica’s best spots at the right  time.

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