Athens Digest 01.11.2018

• Schaeuble says faced criticism for being ‘too generous’ to Greece

• T-Bill rate unchanged as bond return on hold

• Greece lagging behind in EU job recovery

• World Bank: Doing business in Greece is getting harder

• China-linked property deals in potential crime probe

• Greek drugmakers being taxed out of business, industry body warns

# Former German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says his tough position on Greece has been vindicated by the current standoff over Italy’s budget. “I’m smiling because I would have enjoyed if all these people (making statements about) Italy would have supported me in the times when we tried to tell the Greek people that they have to respect the rules,” Schaeuble told Deutsche Welle’s Conflict Zone programme. Schaeuble, who is the current Speaker of the German Bundestag, added: “The accusation in my parliament was that I have been too generous in relation to Greece.”

# Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency says the rate of its regular 6-month treasury bill sale has remained at 0.85 percent, unchanged from a previous auction earlier this month. The sale raised EUR 1.138 billion and went ahead as Greece is holding off on plans to return to the bond market due to financial turmoil in Italy and Turkey. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told lawmakers this week that Greece was willing to wait out the current crisis and wait for yields to drop, with a cash buffer covering funding needs for at least two years.

# Despite a gradual reduction in its unemployment rate, Greece is lagging behind in a jobs recovery across the eurozone and EU as a whole. Eurostat reported that Greece’s jobless rate in September was 19 percent, widening the gap with Spain at 14.9 percent and Italy at 10.1 percent. Overall, the euro area unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in September and 6.7 percent in the EU (dropping from respective rates of 8.9 and 7.5 percent on the year).

# Greece, again, is falling behind other European countries in a survey on doing business. The World Bank’s “Doing Business 2019” report ranked Greece in 72nd place out of 190 countries, slipping five places since the previous survey. Despite a few improvements, Greece only received 68 points out of 100 in “Ease of Doing Business” section _ just keeping it above Mongolia and Uzbekistan.

# Greek judicial authorities are probing alleged property sales to Chinese nationals using an electronic payment scheme that is illegal (violation of capital control rules in China, using POS supported by the National Bank of Greece). The Greek investigation was launched in response to a request for information from Chinese authorities. It is also examining a possible link to the so-called golden visa programme. Reportedly, EUR 40 million were illegally transferred from China. The allegations have implicated a former senior executive of the Greek toy and home supplies retailer Jumbo, prompting the company to publicly distance itself from the official. The bank said that upon detection of unusual transactions it promptly proceeded with the required actions for their termination and notified the Authorities.

On our Radar: Greek drugmakers being taxed out of business, industry body warns
A Greek industry body representing local drugmakers has issued an urgent appeal to the government to adjust its tax and pricing policies, warning that many of its members are facing bankruptcy. The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, PEF, said high direct taxes and sales taxes, combined with policy missteps had produced the threat. The group argued that the government had mishandled an effort to increase the share of generic medicines, as well as a public health rebate policy.