Athens Digest 13.09.2019

• New Finance Minister to unveil government priorities at today’s Eurogroup meeting

3.5 percent surplus targets are ‘drag’ on Greek recovery, says IMF’s spokesperson

Greek jobless rate drops to 16.9-percent in 2019 Q2

Bill scraps RES installation licenses to simplify renewable energy investments

Piraeus Bank announces the transaction’s completion for IASO hospital acquisition

# The government’s agenda and priorities will be presented at today’s Eurogroup meeting by Greece’s new Finance Minister Christos Staikouras who is also expected to soon send a formal request to the ESM to repay some of the country’s IMF loans ahead of schedule. Staikouras, who arrived in Helsinki yesterday, is scheduled to hold successive meetings with the SRB chair Elke König, Eurogroup chief Mário Centeno, the Head of the ESM Klaus Regling, the EBRD Vice President Pierre Heilbronn and ECB executive board member Benoît Cœuré. Tomorrow he will attend the meeting of the finance ministers who are EPP members. On the sidelines, he will also have a private meeting with EC Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.

# Spokesman Gerry Rice said yesterday that the IMF has always argued that Greece’s 3.5 primary surplus target was ambitious and would stand in the way of economic recovery. “We have consistently said that that high fiscal primary balance targets have acted as a drag on Greece’s recovery, and we had argued in the past, and you must know this, for a lower primary fiscal balance,” he told a press briefing in Washington in response to a question whether he thought recent statements by former head Largarde that previous demands for high surpluses was an acceptance of a mistake by the IMF. “What is most important for Greece is implementing credible policies consistent with achieving higher, more inclusive growth, so we will be in those discussions with the government and taking a close look at their initiatives in that context,” he added.

# Greece’s unemployment rate dropped in the second quarter to 16.9-percent from 19.2-percent in the first quarter and 19-percent in the same quarter in 2018, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). More specifically,3,956,424 were employed and 805,047 unemployed – an increase of 3.7-percent from the previous quarter and 2.5 percent compared to the same period last  year.

# The overall processing time for renewable energy investments will be reduced by six months according to a plan to scrap RES project installation licenses included in a multi-bill tabled to Parliament this week. The initiative is part of a government promise to simplify investments in the renewable energy. According to experts, the initiative will boost thousands of mid range investments in the domains of wind and solar energy, and bolster geothermal, biofuel, biogas and biomass projects.

# Piraeus Bank announced the successful completion of the transaction for the acquisition of 83,37-percent of the IASO hospital and the refinancing of the company’s bank debt. The Bank acted as Consultant and Coordinator of the optional public offer of funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. The acquisition of the shares was funded through equity and bank lending. Piraeus Bank refinanced the largest part of the company’s banking debt through a new EUR 72.500.000 asset backed bond loan facility, in view of the repayment of the existing bank lending of the company and its subsidiary IASO THESSALY S.A.

On Our Radar: Greece ranks poorly compared to other EU countries in economic freedom index 
Greece ranked 102th out of 162 countries in the 2019 “Economic Freedom of the World” report published by the Canadian Fraser Institute. The rankings are for 2017. Compared to last year’s rankings with 2016 data, Greece dropped one position even though in 2017 the Greek economy recorded positive growth after 2 years of contraction. Greece was ranked in the bottom three among EU countries in each of the study’s five main subcategories.