In December 2010, Kostis Hatzidakis was attacked by demonstrators in front of the Greek Parliament. Then a simple deputy for New Democracy (center right), but a former minister and notably responsible for the privatization of the Olympic airline, he was taken to task and ended up with a bloody face. A photo showing him visibly in shock went around the world.
Nearly thirteen years later, in his corner office with a magnificent view of the same Parliament, the man who is today Minister of the Economy savors the progress he has made. After a historic depression, the economy has, over the past three years, returned to growth. This should be 2.5% in 2023 and 2% in 2024, significantly above the rest of the euro zone (at 0.7% and 1.2% respectively). Symbol of this improvement, the S&P rating agency removed Greece from its status of junk bond (rotten bond), Friday October 13.
“For the last decade our goal was to stay in the euro. We came close to disaster. The objective of the current decade for Greece is to bring our economy closer to the European average. » Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is today only 68% of that of the European Union (EU), making it the second lowest of the Twenty-Seven, only ahead of Bulgaria.
However, there is no question for the government to start spending more. Year after year, it wants to continue to post a “primary” budget surplus (before payment of debt interest), which allows it to reduce its public debt. “We can’t do miracles”underlines Mr. Hatzidakis, recalling that after the scale of the crisis which shook Greece, whose economy remains 20% below its 2007 level, reconstruction will necessarily be slow.
Stabilization of the workforce in the public service
“ [Les excédents primaires] are not only a precondition for reducing our debt, but also a way of proving that we have learned lessons from the past, that we have changed our mentality and that we are adopting international best practices. » The debt, which reached 206% of GDP in 2020, is now 159% and should fall to 152% at the end of 2024, taking advantage of both inflation and the country’s significant growth to mechanically reduce this ratio.
Public services, exhausted after years of austerity, will therefore have to wait, even if Mr. Hatzidakis wants to make an effort in favor of hospitals, which are particularly affected. He promises the recruitment of 15,000 healthcare workers over the coming years. As for the civil service, the rule is now to stabilize the workforce, with one hire for each departure, whereas reduction has long been the norm.
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