Athens Digest 11.07.2019

# UPDATE: At least six people have died and more than 20 were injured overnight after storms battered the northern Halkidiki region. Earlier, eight migrants were injured near the town of Thebes when a fallen tree crashed into a tent at a migrant camp in an incident also related to gale-force winds and bad weather.

• Commission cuts Greek growth forecast

• IOBE cuts forecast too and warns of slowdown

• Merkel: No reason to change Greek targets. First reforms, then surplus talks, says government

• Mitsotakis says Cabinet to-do list will set six-month targets

• PPC chief adds name to growing departure list

The EU Commission has cut Greece’s growth forecast for 2019 to 2.1 percent from the previous projection of 2.2 percent. “Downside risks are related to the stronger-than-expected pass-through of the weakening external environment and under-execution of the budget,” a note on Greece, included in the Commission’s Summer 2019 Economic Forecast, said. Real GDP growth was 0.2 percent (quarter-on-quarter) in the first quarter of 2019 (in seasonally and working-day adjusted terms), which corresponds to a growth rate of 1.3 percent (year-on-year), down from 1.5% in the previous quarter. This slowdown highlights the fragile nature of Greece’s recovery.

Think-tank IOBE has also slashed its growth forecast for 2019 to 1.8 from 2.0 percent and warned of a further slowdown. “This rate of growth is clearly lower than that set by (official) economic policy _ a trend that we’ve seen for the last three years,” Nikos Vettas, director Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research, said while presenting its quarterly review.IOBE predicted that unemployment will dip below the 18 percent mark by the end of the year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greece’s change of government would not herald a change in budget targets. “It doesn’t matter which party the (new) prime minister belongs to, these are programmes that have been extensively negotiated,” Merkel said. “(Euro area) finance ministers said they see no reason to change the framework of agreements (with Greece), and I agree.”

“Implementing a broad reform programme will finally bring strong growth to the country and restore the trust of partners and markets and will allow us to seek a reduction of excessive surpluses with credibility,” a government official in Athens said:PM Mitsotakis is due to meet Merkel in Berlin in late August.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Cabinet ministers they will be subjected to progress assessments every six months, vowing to make a hard-work launch of his new conservative government. The prime minister said parliament would skip its normal summer recess and confirmed that tax reductions will be included among the first bills to be sent to the assembly.

Public Power Corporation Chairman and CEO Manolis Panagiotakis has resigned as head of the utility, becoming the latest senior official to quit following the change of government.

On our Radar: Greek skull find could alter human history
Remains of a skull found at a cave in southern Greece, suggest human ancestors left Africa earlier than previously believed. The remains are 210,000 years old, researchers reported in the journal Nature _ making it the earliest exodus from Africa discovered so far. Exits to Europe by our ancestors were all doomed until more than 100,000 years later. The Apidima cave where the skull fragments were found is near the southern tip of the Peloponnese.