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Finances 07/05/2014



Texte du discours du ministre des Finances M. Yannis Stournaras à la réunion ministérielle annuelle de l'OCDE 

Paris - 07 mai 2014

Global value chains have become a dominant feature of today's interconnected economies and we very much appreciate the very important work carried out by the OECD, offering a better understanding of the world economy.

In Greece , and as the economy gets out of the crisis, we are trying to maximize economic values and the synergies with our trade partners, through an outward-looking growth strategy, and the OECD is assisting us on how to delineate this outward-looking growth strategy.

The two main causes of the crisis that is the twin deficits, the general government deficit and the current account deficit, have now been eliminated; they were about 15% of GDP in 2009, they are close to zero now, and competitiveness has improved, following a four-year period of arduous efforts towards fiscal consolidation and structural reform. Actually, if you look either in the European Commission forecast issued two days ago or the OECD forecast issued yesterday, you will see a huge turnaround, perhaps the most impressive in OECD's history, both in terms of fiscal deficits, current account deficits and competitiveness. I will not go into details, since you can see that.

Although fiscal efforts and structural reforms continue, we can now look at the future with much more optimism, despite the fact that adjustments occurred at a huge socioeconomic cost in terms of plunging GDP, spiking unemployment and reduced disposable income of the order of 30%. Already, Greece is slowly and carefully returning to capital markets, either for the funding of the State or for the recapitalization and funding of systemic banks and big corporates.

Greece , based on the achievements of the last four years, is now developing a new outward-looking growth strategy. On the demand side, the main elements of this strategy are balanced budgets, current account equilibriums, a smaller share of consumption in GDP and a larger share of net exports and investment. On the supply side, resources are shifting to traded goods and services, from not traded good ones; tourism, primary sector and agro-food industry, energy, logistics, pharmaceuticals, metal and construction material industries, shipping and transport, are activities consistent with the dynamic comparative advantage of Greece .

Structural reforms, which continue unabated, make the economy more flexible and facilitate the shift of the resources from not traded to traded goods and services sectors. What is also remarkable in this context is the skilled labor force and the number of Greek scientists of all kinds, residing in Greece or abroad, having a number of scientific publications and citations are among the highest in the world. The challenge is to transform these scientific achievements into innovation. Entrepreneurship, the right kind of entrepreneurship, and technical assistance are two of the missing links.

We have now a pretty good idea of how the supply side in Greece will look like ten years from now. We have commissioned three studies, one by McKinsey, two by Greek think tanks, which have delineated in great detail the future picture. We are going to publish these studies quickly.

However, the shift to the new growth model faces two constraints. The first is the lack of liquidity, especially towards SMEs. For instance, many people are questioning why exports in Greece do not rise very quickly. Well, Greek companies, export Greek companies, they don’t have export credit, because of the crisis. The have been deprived of export credit growth. Recent positive developments and limited market access do not suffice to cover the financing needs of the Greek economy. The attraction of private financing, especially from abroad and particularly in the form of foreign direct investment, plays a decisive role in the realization of Greece 's new growth model. The provision of liquidity to SMEs is particularly important. A core objective is the support of existing and the creation of new financing tools for startups that are created by young entrepreneurs, both in cutting-edge technology sectors and in traditional sectors of the Greek economy.

In this context, and apart from the activities of the European Union Structural Funds, and those activities by the European Investment Bank, we are seeking participation of investors in a development fund called "Institute for Growth" that we have just created.

This Institute for Growth has the form of an umbrella-fund, operating strictly under commercial criteria, private sector criteria, initially investing via both debt financing and equity financing in SMEs and through debt financing in infrastructure projects. It will be highly flexible, allowing for the participation of new partners after starting operations and the creation of additional sub-funds under its umbrella, if there is sufficient demand for financing high-quality projects in other subsectors of economic activity. Already, the development fund, this development fund has signed agreements with the German KFW and with the European Investment Bank.

The second constraint is the high level of existing debt, which is a legacy of the past, since for the future now the causes of the crisis of this mountain of debt have been eliminated, the twin deficits, but there is a legacy of the past. The entire recovery effort will be greatly facilitated, if the markets consider that the Greek debt is sustainable.

Within this framework and apart from the high primary surpluses that we are now having in the Greek economy, the Eurogroup decision of November 2012 stated explicitly that further measures and that safeguarding the sustainability of the Greek debt will be adopted by Greece's Euro-area partners, once a primary surplus has been achieved. As EUROSTAT confirmed in April this year that Greece has achieved now a primary surplus, using the definitions of the Economic Adjustment Program, the Eurogroup two days ago reaffirmed in strong terms its position and the relevant discussion on Greek public debt sustainability will take place in the next Troika review, following the asset quality review of banks by the ECB.

In conclusion and at this point I would like to thank Greece 's partners for all their assistance, thanks to which Greece managed to survive a very-very serious crisis and is now able to look at the future with much more optimism.

Thank you.

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