Athens Digest 15.07.2019

• Reforms will secure Greece’s fiscal commitments, says government

• Contacts to begin with European officials this week

• BoG’s Stournaras: Greece’s participation in QE program “feasible soon”

• Hellinikon project a top priority for the government, says Minister of Development

The government said on Saturday that the implementation of its reform program “will secure Greece’s fiscal commitments to achieve its primary surplus targets.” After a meeting with Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and his deputies, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that changing “the fiscal mix, implementing profitable investments, and boosting liquidity in the real economy” are the new government’s key priorities.

Meanwhile, the government will begin contacts this week with senior European officials who are expected in Athens week for the Economist Conference on July 16-17. Moreover, ahead of the government’s announcement of its program (July 20-22) and its new tax bill expected by August 10, a small group of technical teams representing the institutions will also arrive this week. The negotiations on Greece’s post-programme commitment will begin in September.

The Bank of Greece Governor Yiannis Stournara is not ruling out Greece’s participation in the ECB’s QE and also reckons there is room for compromise with the institutions so that it can reduce its primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of GDP in 2019. In an interview to the Kathimerini newspaper on Saturday, he said it’s not easy to estimate how long it will take Greece to improve its investment grade rating, but stressed that it is “feasible soon for Greece to take part in ECB’s existing reinvestment program and in a new securities purchase program, which is likely to be decided in the future.” Describing Greece’s surplus targets as a “serious challenge” after the package of handouts in May, he said the economy will quickly enter a new cycle of credibility, confidence and growth if the government implements forward-looking and credible measures.

The necessary joint ministerial decision so that the delayed multibillion Hellinikon coastal development project at the site of the former Athens airport moves ahead will be taken in August, according to Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis. He also stressed  that a bill will be submitted in August that will expedite licensing issues which will allow for the finalization of pending casino license for the resort.

On Our Radar: University asylum law to be abolished
Referring to the government’s plan to abolish the so-called university asylum law which bans police from entering campus, the new Education Minister Niki Kerameus insisted yesterday that “without safety, there is no free exchange of ideas and no academic freedom.” The controversial law’s abolition will be proposed in the first bill that the government will submit next week. It had for years been vilified because, critics say, rather than securing the free expression of ideas it had been abused by self-style anarchists, students and others who would occupy university grounds in order to avoid arrest after fighting pitched battles with riot police on the streets.