Michalis Chrysochoidis is currently minister for development, competitiveness and shipping in the ruling PASOK government.
A couple of months ago, you said 'the Memorandum of Understanding with the EC [European Commission], the ECB [European Central Bank] and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] is not the Bible', meaning that it is not the last word on what must be done to overcome the crisis. Is there an alternative strategy for Greece to reset its economy?
As we all know, austerity is necessary but not sufficient. It is very important not to get trapped in the fiscal issue. The Greek government is dedicated to clamping down on its deficit. We are firm on the fiscal consolidation front, having already cut down 5% of the deficit in 2010, and yes, we will implement the three-year medium-term economic adjustment programme, voted in early July, at full speed.
However, good news from the business sector should also receive priority. To overcome the crisis Greece needs not only a bail-out, but an economic revival plan. We already implemented a national strategy on rebalancing growth for the business sector. So far we have had impressive results in the field of exports, where there has been a spectacular increase by 11% in 2010 and 40.4% in the first semester of 2011.
The incentive structure of the economy is changing fast and we are gradually moving into a new growth model. This growth rebalancing strategy for the business sector, taking place at the national level, needs to be transformed into a Growth Rebalancing Initiative for the Greek Economy within the EU.
In this respect the July 21st Agreement is more than welcome because, apart from resolving the debt problem, it also brings growth through the enhancement of private investment and employment into the equation. This is the alternative where we need to focus from now on.
You have declared that foreign direct investments are a key prerequisite for economic recovery and growth. However, why should foreign businesses invest in an unfriendly business environment where the only offer on the table is bureaucracy and strikes?
Let us not be carried away by sensational TV images and rushed analyses. The business environment in Greece is changing at a rapid pace. We are transforming the country into a business-friendly economy. The creation of One Stop Shops where businesses can be established in one day and at only one stop, the new state-of-the-art Competition Law, the new Licencing Law, the Fast-Track Legislation for investments above 200 million euros and the coming Bill on a Business-Friendly Greece are all tangible proof of this rapid and deep change.
The OECD in its recent Outlook on Greece has measured these changes, with Greece moving up by 14 positions among 30 OECD countries.
However, for foreign direct investment to pour into the country, there also need to be investment opportunities. And Greece offers plenty of good opportunities for investment, especially in the areas of renewable energy, food manufacturing, transport, the health and elderly care sector and waste management, to name but a few.
This is why there are already five big projects of 1.8 billion euros earmarked under the Fast-Track Legislation and another 20 coming up in the aforementioned sectors.
Many people doubt that you will be able to reset the economy in the midst of the worst economic crisis for years. Do you have a plan?
I wouldn't be trying if I didn't believe it could happen. The tectonic plates of change are moving fast and we need to grasp the opportunity to move the economy forward. The plan is first of all to implement the economic adjustment programme on all fronts.
As far as I am concerned this means pressing ahead with the growth rebalancing strategy for the business sector. This means promoting exports and the internationalisation of the Greek economy, radically changing the business environment, effectively and speedily using Cohesion Funds, attracting Foreign Direct Investment.
In addition this means implementing the 21st July EU Agreement on all fronts. On the growth initiative front this means reprogramming structural funds in cooperation with the Commission in order adapt them to the needs of the crisis and the post-crisis era, activate and involve the private sector and business so that they invest in Greece, improve access to capital through the better use of EIB [European Investment Bank] funding, adopt good practices other member states have in economic governance matters, make the best possible use out of the EU Task Force President Barroso and Prime Minister Papandreou set up in July.
At the moment, the Greek government is faced with a lot of distrust from both Greek society and markets; at the same time parliamentarians in fellow member states are now openly calling for Greece to exit the euro zone. Could that be a solution, and why should they trust you for a second time?
There is no other option for my country but to stay in the euro. Greece's historic position is in the EU core. It is to our and Europe's economic and political collective interest. So let us all show responsibility, us Greeks on the fiscal consolidation front, and our fellow European partners in the field of necessary growth initiatives that need to be taken in order to reset the Greek economy. We need an Alliance for Growth in Europe, not a revival of national egoisms.
So, why should Greece be trusted? Because, as all international organisation reports show from the OECD to the Troica, the reforms carried out over the past year are impressive. Because we have a plan and we are determined and able to continue reforming the economy.
The Greek government pushes for the 21st July Agreement to be implemented by its partners. However, you are accused of delays in making almost all the structural changes that the Greek economy needs.
There have been drawbacks. After all, Greece has embarked on an ambitious adjustment programme to deal with a deep economic crisis. I don't know any country in recent European history that has gone through so much change in such a little period of time.
If the July 21st Agreement on the Greek debt is implemented, and a growth initiative is brought forward without delay, then Greece will have the time needed to implement all the necessary reforms to transform itself from a virtual bubble economy to a real productive economy.