After a year marked by intense uncertainty and strong turmoil, due to successive international crises (health, climate, energy) and geopolitical tensions, the whole planet is now on the threshold of a new year-landmark for the formation of the post-pandemic landscape.
A year in which our country is looking forward with realistic optimism, despite the uncertainty still caused – worldwide – by COVID-19 and rising prices, especially in the energy sector.
Optimism based on solid foundations: the resilience shown by the Greek economy in the vortex of the pandemic, the high recovery achieved – despite the multi-level crises – in 2021 and the dynamics it bequeaths to 2022, as all institutional analyses, rating agencies, financial institutions, and investors realize.
The above are the fruit and the crowning achievement of our labors:
- The implementation of a prudent fiscal policy, which adapted immediately and effectively to the emergencies created by the health crisis and other external, global trials, while continuing to focus on reducing taxes and social security contributions.
- The design and implementation of a far-sighted bond strategy.
- Promoting structural reforms and privatizations, despite adverse conditions.
- The formulation and implementation of a very broad and recognized – inside and outside the country – efficient package of measures, totaling 43.3 billion euros, which the government set up. A package that kept the productive fabric of our country upright, enabled the market to restart dynamically, protected jobs and prevented the bankruptcies that some had seen as a given.
- The further upgrade of the country’s credibility and international prestige, as reflected, among other things, in a series of laudatory statements about Greece by foreign officials recently. Statements such as that of the director general of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, on the sidelines of the recent Eurogroup, where she stressed: “You should be proud as Greeks.” A feeling deeply rooted in the consciousness of our people, which, however, had “faded” during the years of economic crisis of the last decade. A feeling that is reborn and strengthened, thanks to what, with hard and methodical work, we all – state and citizens – achieved togetherin this turbulent period.
As a government and the Ministry of Finance, with the above policies we have achieved strategic goals, such as attracting significant foreign investment, improving the country’s competitiveness, reducing unemployment, increasing exports, shrinking the volume of “red” loans in the portfolios of banks, the upgrading of the country by credit rating agencies.
At the same time, we have shown unprecedented reflexes and readiness to take advantage of historic opportunities, such as European development tools, with the Fund for Recovery and Resilience and the new NSRF 2021-2027 at the forefront.
And indeed, no opportunity was lost. Greece – able to take advantage of the ECB’s loose monetary policy – is borrowing for the first time in its history at negative money market rates and raising funds from the capital market on very favorable terms.
We achieved the most impressive economy comeback in the eurozone, erasing, in almost a year, the “footprint” of the pandemic, with the country’s GDP recording the best performance in the eurozone in the third quarter of 2021, as well as the best domestic performance of the last 10 years.
We have thus managed to permanently boost the disposable income of the citizens, we have created a fiscal space to be able to give a “growth dividend” to society and to make it possible to double the minimum wage in 2022. After all, the goal is that whatever is created as an economic and development advantage will become a social acquis.
It turns out, therefore, that we have achieved a lot and laid the foundations for even more. We laid the foundations for the new year to be the starting point of a course of strong, sustainable, smart, green and socially just development.
We are moving in this direction, with confidence but also careful steps, setting ambitious but achievable goals. Goals that are a “compass” in the upward course of our country, which in the field of economy can be summarized as follows:
1. Maintaining high rates of economic growth in the coming years.
2. Improving the composition of GDP, with a significant increase in investment and exports. The real growth rate is estimated at around 11% for 2021 and 23% for 2022.
3. Exit of the country from the Enhanced Supervision regime, within 2022.
4. Achieving a single-digit percentage of non-performing loans in the banks’ portfolios, within 2022. Indeed, from 2021, systemic banking institutions achieved a single-digit percentage.
5. Fiscal balance in 2022 and achieving realistic primary surpluses, driven by high growth, from 2023.
6. Acquisition of investment grade, in 2023.
In the approximately two and a half years of our tenure, we have proved, as a government, that we have the determination and efficiency, consistently achieving the goals we set. We will do the same in the new year. Without boasting and with full awareness of the new challenges that arise, we continue with the same momentum and will on the path we have set.
We move on with a plan and vision, the implementation of a developmental, reformist, responsible, credible, efficient and fair economic policy, aiming at a Greece that is dynamic, productive, extroverted, socially just, green, without exclusions and inequalities.
We continue, so that the strong recovery of 2021 is transformed into a strong perspective for 2022, the tax burden of the citizens to continue to de-escalate, the labor market to expand with new and well-paid jobs, the living standard of the Greeks to improve and for our economy to integrate into the dynamic economies of Europe.
We continue, so that Greece becomes a model country and continues to inspire even developed economies, like the German one, as its new Minister of Finance recently admitted.
Mr. Christos Staikouras is the Minister of Finance.