New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
Top executives from the investment, financial and business communities gathered at the Metropolitan Club in New York City, on December 10, 2018, to hear from government and business leaders from Greece, Europe and the United States the message that Greece is slowly returning to a period of economic growth and aims to position itself as an attractive investment and business destination.
A government delegation led by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in a message read at the Forum stressed that Greece “is becoming an export-oriented, investment-attractive country that focuses on innovation and high value-added production.”
Speaking at the forum Finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos stressed the government aims at a simpler, fairer tax system, adding that the main task of the finance ministry for the last three years was to provide the framework so that when Greece exited the adjustment programme, it would be well-equipped to tackle the important challenges of growth, public health and education. Asked whether the new tax system will include a larger tax reduction for companies, Tsakalotos said that the prime minister has already announced that the tax on profits will be reduced by 1 pct annually over the next four years.
Alternate Finance minister Giorgos Houliarakis in his message via webcast stated that the government knows the challenges it faces but has no intention of slowing the reforms, while Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) head Giorgos Pitsilis told delegates at the investment forum that the IAPR is working on multiple reform projects to improve the tax administration system’s efficiency.
Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura and the General Secretary of the Ministry George Tziallas also presented the investment opportunities in the tourism sector and the new legislation adapted recently to cut the red tape and provide incentives.
The Forum” concluded with an Official Dinner at the Yacht Club, presenting the “2018 Hellenic Capital Link Leadership Award” and Keynote Speaker Mr. Matthew Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary European and Eurasian Affairs U.S. Department of State.
In his remarks, Mr. Nicolas Bornozis, President of Capital Link expressed his appreciation for the participation in the Capital Link Forum of senior government officials from Greece, Europe and the United States, which reinforces Greece’s message to the international investment community.
Haris Lalacos, Ambassador of Greece in the USA, presented the «2018 Hellenic Capital Link Leadership Award» to Mr. Evangelos G. Mytilineos, Chairman & CEO, MYTILINEOS, honoring him for his outstanding contribution to Greece. Dean Metropoulos, Chairman & CEO, Metropoulos & Company, introduced Mr. Evangelos Mytilineos.
Receiving this year’s Hellenic Capital Link Leadership Award, in recognition of his long and significant contribution to the Greek economy, Mr. Evangelos Mytilineos, Chairman & CEO of MYTILINEOS S.A., provided an insightful analysis of the global financial landscape and the challenges of our times. Vividly describing a new world order bound to the laws of booming technologies and dominated by risky trade wars, he then zoomed-in on the place and role of Greece in this context and outlined key steps that decisively need to be taken on a national level, both geopolitically and financially, to restore Greece’s credibility and tighten its strategic relations as an integral part of the EU.
“”Greece is not any more the focus of world attention, which I think is basically good news. No doubt, the interest of this particular Forum is Greece. But before we get there, we have to look at what is happening in the world, and assess the European as well as the global environment, because it is in this environment that our country will have to re-invent its role and come back from the cold years of the crisis, to the normality and prosperity it deserves,” he said.
Speaking about the Greek crisis he said “European allies and the IMF came to the Greek rescue but to the rescue of the Euro, as well. But, the recipes have been proven so wrong… Only to mention that the country lost 25% of its GDP in just a few years and that was in peacetime, no war, nothing… Only in 2017 this decline seemed to find bottom.”
Offering his view on what does the New World Order and past-globalization times mean for Greece, he stressed:
“First, enhance and strengthen strategic relationships, primarily with the U.S.
Second, continue successfully the regional balancing and close the issue with FYROM as soon as possible, with maximum political consent. But most significantly fight hard for the European integration project. In the years to come, not one European country can prosper on its own. Rich and poor, South and North, we all need the European unity.”
On the Greek economy he underlined that there are no magic solutions.
“We have to:
- Go full speed ahead with agreed reforms and privatization.
- Create a much friendlier business and tax environment.
- Attract big and small foreign and domestic investments with speedy permitting, a comprehensive energy policy targeted incentives. There is a great quote from Washington politics that came to my mind regarding Greece: “that we need to get ourselves off the menu to get a seat around the table.”
Mytilineos reminde the audience that Greece ‘s financial crisis is due to three main problems: Fiscal deficits, Current account deficit, Credibility deficit.
“We need to deal with all three of them if we want to leave crisis once and for all behind us, and, most of all, the credibility issue. Credibility regarding our honesty and our commitment, both on a public and private level, to our obligations. A small damaged country needs private sector leadership and the burden of care cannot be solely placed on the lap of government. We must all accept responsibility for how the narrative is written and a commitment towards our country and its people beyond the words and the prizes. Mytilineos has always been symbiotic with its environment and I am proud to say, that despite the challenges, we are both more multinational than ever before but also more focused on propelling Greece into the future than ever before.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matthew Palmer told the audience that U.S. has made a strategic judgment that Greece is an ideal partner, as the United States seeks to build stability and prosperity in this complicated region.
“We share key goals with respect to the Western Balkans and Turkey, and our desire to keep these countries anchored to the West and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Greece also shares our concern about maritime security and stability in the wider region. It is in this broader context that we see Greece not just as a market of 11 million people, but as a gateway to the Western Balkans, a key partner with Israel, Egypt, and Cyprus, and vital to the future energy picture for Southeastern Europe. A key component of this, of course, is the completion of the Prespa Agreement and the opportunities it will unlock,”
Palmer spoke about the meaning of the successful participation of the United Stated at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair, as an honored country.
“The presence of more than 50 top-tier American companies and a U.S. government delegation led by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is representative of both Greece’s untapped economic potential, but also the opportunities that underlie U.S. strategic investment in the region. We were also pleased to see the Greek government’s own focus on the start-up sector, an area the U.S. government has long supported. TIF was the launching pad to the next stage of our work as we look ahead to the inaugural U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue with Secretary Pompeo on December 13th.”
Addressing the state of affairs of the U.S. – Greece relationship, stressed the importance of the defense cooperation.
“From rotating NATO aircraft and equipment through Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli to maximizing use of Souda Bay, we have deepened our defense cooperation to the mutual benefit of our countries. The recent arrival of our troops and helicopters in Stefanovikio is another important signal. Not only do local communities benefit economically from having American forces temporarily in Greece, these rotations also present an opportunity to work with our partners from the Hellenic Armed Forces.”
He also addressed the energy cooperation issues as well as the tourism and other areas where U.S. major companies have expressed interest/
“There are obvious synergies between the American tourism services industry and Greece. American companies are taking a close look at opportunities in Greece and they are doing so with the very strong support of the U.S. government. And while I don’t want to necessarily temper this enthusiasm, I do want to provide a little ground truth. Looking forward, we know that investors are going to make critical decisions based on the ability of the Greek government to demonstrate it can remove obstacles to investment and economic growth. We will continue to do everything that we possibly can to mobilize the tools and resources of the U.S. government to support Greece in its efforts to further facilitate trade and investment. However, a lot depends on government policies and decisions. As this audience knows, the pace of growth is going to be determined significantly by the signals that the Greek government sends to foreign and domestic investors alike. That’s part of what we hope to address at the Strategic Dialogue. We want to put a positive spotlight on the opportunities that Greece represents, but also have an honest and direct conversation about the areas where Americans and other international investors are still looking for clarity on government policy”.