Athens Digest 23.07.2019

• Mitsotakis wins confidence vote, outlines first legislative initiatives

• Finance Minister: No more excessive surpluses

• PPC rescue to include new tariff structure

• Bank of Greece:Tourists spending more on Greece trips

• ‘Anarchist leader’ arrested for incitement after attack on industry federation

• Study: Tourism industry needs more seniors

# MPs last night voted 158-142 to back Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ new government, following a three-day debate that allowed the 51-year-old prime minister and members of his cabinet to outline their main policy objectives. Mitsotakis said legislative initiatives planned over the next month would include: The reorganisation of central and local government administration in various areas, limited tax cuts (property taxes and changing the terms of a new tax installment scheme), and ending a longstanding ban on police access to university campus grounds. The changes, he said, would be contained in three separate bills to be voted by August 10.

# Christos Staikouras, the new finance minister, promised to end “excessive” surpluses that overshoot agreed targets by a wide margin, noting that the policy had dramatically pushed up tax arrears and pounded the country’s middle class. Property tax reductions, he said, would average at 22 percent per household. Further, minimum monthly payments for taxpayers signed up to the special installment scheme will be cut from EUR 30 to 20 and interest on late payments will be reduced from 5 to 3 percent.

# Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis has revealed key points of a rescue plan for the Public Power Corporation after the government promised to do “everything necessary” to prevent the utility from suffering financial collapse. The minister said the plan involved the partial privatization of distribution networks, the reorganisation of the electricity tariff structure, designed to have a neutral effect for consumers, and an early retirement scheme. The government would also help the company create a better-focused debt collection strategy, he said, noting that 60,000 customers owed the company EUR 800 million. Hatzidakis heaped criticism on the previous government, telling Parliament: “What happened at PPC is beyond human comprehension: “You … agreed to a model that reduced market share from 90 percent to 50 percent in five years without receiving 1 euro in return, and with employees working to lose customers. There is no precedent for this anywhere in the world (…) We are looking to remove NOME. It is not possible for the company to sell below cost and work in favor of its competitors,” he added.

# Greece has seen a significant increase in travel receipts in the first five months of 2019, jumping 14.4 percent on the year, according to Bank of Greece data. The improvement is due to an increase of 15.4 percent in average expenditure per trip, even as inbound traveller traffic decreased by 0.9 percent.

# An alleged leading member of the anarchist group Rubicon has been arrested on charges of incitement to damage property, according to authorities. The 40-year-old man was arrested over Facebook posts in the wake of a paint attack by the group on the offices of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, which led to two arrests. The new conservative government has vowed to crack down on the group which has launched numerous low-level attacks at ministry buildings, private companies, and embassies.

On our Radar: Greece’s (lost) Grey Opportunity 
Greece could add billions to its economy and tens of thousands of jobs with improved policy and practices to attract more seniors as tourists according to a new study. The Athens-based Research and Policy Institute, Dianeosis, partnered with Greece’s Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine and estimated that the benefit from the proposed changes could be worth an additional EUR 13.6 billion and 173,000 new jobs over a five-year period. The changes would involve improvements to infrastructure and institutional framework by the government and private sector in areas including the property market, long-term stay opportunities for the elderly, medical tourism, and healing trips, the study said (here the study in Greek).