The image of Greece as a business destination is changing!

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Interview of Notis Mitarachi, Deputy Minister for Development, Publication of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce

Interview of Notis Mitarachi, Deputy Minister for Development, Publication of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce

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  • 1. May 20137NotisMitarachisThe image ofGree c eas a business destinationis changing!He is convinced that... “the foundations havebeen put in place for us to get back on ourfeet.” The Deputy Minister of Development,Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Net-works Mr. Notis Mitarachis in an interview he gave forthe first newsletter of the British Hellenic Chamber ofCommerce, says he is optimistic about the recovery ofthe Greek economy. Increasing competitiveness, attract-ing foreign investors,privatization and combating bureau-cracy through the new development law, are the areasthat will usher in a new era of economic stability.Besides,Greece is already recognized as one of the 10countries with the greatest improvement in the worldafter the publication of the report“Doing Business 2013”commissioned by theWorld Bank.– For four years now, “development” has become aterm identified with the future of the country. During aperiod when the business sector is on the receiving endof stifling pressures, struggling primarily for its survival,what are the immediate plans you are elaborating uponat the Ministry in order that economic recovery of themarket be achieved? When, exactly, do you expect thesufficient liquidity supply to be restored in the small – andmedium –sized enterprises and the banks?As you are aware, the recapitalization of the Greekbanks is in progress. In total, € 50bil.have been commit-ted and will be distributed to the banks.This means – incombination with the € 19bil.,which returned to banks inGreece since the Samaras Government took office – thatthe Greek banks have the sources to confront the crisis,and do not face the uncertainty predominant in othercountries.The recapitalization procedure is expected tobe complete in the following weeks, and we hope thatgradually, the liquidity in the market will be restored.Contributing to this end will be the settlement and pay-ment of the overdue debts of the public sector.As fromthe beginning of the year up to the end of March, over€ 1,5bil. had reached their beneficiaries.– Up until two years ago,direct British investments toGreece exceeded in value 5bil. Euros, with an emphasison retail trade, services, as well as the purchase of largeareas of land for the development of complete tour-ist resorts with golf courses, marinas, etc. With a driv-ing force being the need for investments, how can largeBritish enterprises on the one hand remain, and on theother hand be attracted? What role to you believe theHellenic-British Chamber of Commerce is able play inthis direction?The image of Greece as a business destination ischanging fast: the World Bank, in its last report “DoingBusiness 2013”, upgraded Greece by 22 positions, fromthe 100th place to the 78th place, recognizing it as oneof the 10 countries with the greatest improvementworldwide. Parallely, the ECB for the 12-month periodMarch 2012 – March 2013, rated Greece first, among itscommercial partners, in the increase in competitiveness,with a 1,9% rating. Furthermore, we have establishedprocedures for the exploitation of the property of thePublic Sector and we are implementing an ambitiousprivatization plan. Our relations with Great Britain areexcellent and we are certain that with the help of thebusiness community inside which the Hellenic-BritishChamber has a prominent role,we will bring forward thebig changes that are taking place in our country, and wewill, toward the benefit of both countries, solidify oureconomic co-operation.– A large part of the Greek “spirit of entrepreneur-ship” had expanded itself in Cyprus.How do you wish tocomment on the events which are shaking the countryof Cyprus, and particularly the deadlock very many smalland even large Greek enterprises have found themselvesin?Greece is always in solidarity with Cyprus and theCyprian people.They had and have our support in what-ever they themselves decide.With regards to the con-sequences of these specific events in the Greek space,the Government acted quickly and protected the bank-ing system from any possible transmission effects of thecrisis. And, certainly, we will do everything possible totemper the negative consequences.Nonetheless,the firstsigns converge on the fact that the impact on the growthof our economy is most probably limited and at the levelof half a percentage point of the GDP.– You are a distinguished economic analyst. At theEconomist Convention you supported the view that2013 will be a transitional year for the country.Which pa-rameters allow you to believe that the climate will soonbe reversed?During the previous week we had – after a long time –some positive developments. The closing of an agree-ment for the disbursement of the next tranche of a valueof € 2,8bil. In parallel, the disbursement of the followingtranche for May of € 6bil., was set on track.Greece,dur-ing the previous period proved any negative predictionswrong, and is now quickly gaining ground to re-establishits lost credibility. It is being stabilized and shielded. Asyou may know, the primary deficit fell from 10,4% in theyear 2009, to 1,4% in 2012. During the first quarter of2013 we had a primary surplus of € 0,5bil.in relation to a€ 2,30bil. primary deficit objective. During the first threemonths of the year there were yet more positive signs.Large enterprises such as Hewlett-Packard,Philip Morris,Unilever, Paine & Partners, and others, have decided tofurther their business activities in Greece, and to createnew job positions.This is an encouraging sign. 2013 willbe a difficult year and a transitional year for both citizensand businesses. Unemployment remains at unbearablyhigh levels and there will be negative consequences forcertain enterprises due to the 6-year recession. In anycase, however, we have set the foundations to place ourfeet back on the ground.– Do you agree with the prediction of the Presidentof Bundesbank that Europe will live another ten yearswithin an economic crisis environment?Allow me to concern myself not so much with thepredictions as with the work we have ahead of us.To doour work as best we can and as quickly as possible.Toset goals and to achieve them, as we have done in thisrecent period.And I am certain that if we continue likethis, Greece will leave the crisis much earlier than in theten years mentioned in your question.– What are the basic changes in the developmentallaw,which create the prerequisites for healthy and extro-verted entrepreneurship?The draft law, with specific measures, creates a morefavorable environment for investments. The principalchanges concern the establishment of the General Di-rectorate for Strategic Investments which will assumethe exclusive responsibility for the licensing of majorinvestments, and the Special Space Development Plansfor Strategic Investments (ΕΣΧΑΣΕ), through which weare dealing with longstanding long-term pending environ-mental and urban-planning issues which are encumberingthe materialization of strategic investments. Parallely, forprivate investments,we are intensifying liquidity,accelera-tion, and transparency through specific measures. Withregard to extroverted entrepreneurship,we have alreadyannounced our Strategy for the facilitation of proceduresfor the actualization of exports through the simplifica-tion of customs and pre-customs checks, with an aim atlimiting time and cost by 50% and 20% respectively.– Before, as well as during the recession, a commondenominator for the majority of Greek and foreign en-terprises was the “everlasting torture” of bureaucracy. Isthere some plan that may change the given current situ-ation?When, how and where?With the new legislative framework approved byGreek Parliament, a Central Licensing Service for themajor investments,is created in the Ministry of Develop-ment. For the first time we are introducing the institu-tion of the multi-permit which will abolish the need forissuing multiple licenses. For investments over € 3 mil.we have legislated,in cooperation with the agency Investin Greece, the institution of the investor intermediary.For the small – and medium – sized enterprises, the De-velopmental Law will create the institution of certifiedagents which drastically accelerate and simplify the in-vestment check procedures. The back and forth trek tocompetent and co-competent authorities, many timesnon-competent,is put to a definite stop for strategic andprivate investments,which the country is in such need of.– For many years, it has been determined that tensof millions of community funds have entered the Greekmarket with a non-conventionally unruly manner. Withtoday’s economic given, what will change in the manage-ment of these funds?For the supply of community funds there are specificEuropean Community guidelines, which the memberstates are required to follow and keep.There is an im-pression about the way in which we handled the Com-munity Support Frames.Still,we should not overlook thefact that with those funds significant infrastructure pro-jects were realized in our country. In any case, however,given the crisis we are determined to select and to fundthose actions which will constitute the greatest addedvalue to the economy.