Greece is now two-thirds of the way through its crisis, but still needs support in growing the economy following years of contraction, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister has said.
Asked his view of the economic situation, Evangelos Venizelos told The Independent: “The official answer is that we have before us less than one-third of the crisis… we have behind us more than two-thirds of the total effort.”
But he added: “The real answer is that we need constructive co-operation with our institutional partners to reconstruct, to re-establish the real economy. We need more GDP.”
He said that the country had been though six years of economic crisis – including two years before Greece accepted the reality of its situation, and that it now desperately needed the institutions of the EU and IMF to allow it to carry out growth-boosting measures instead of yet more fiscal tightening.
He said: “It’s very difficult to achieve our target through negative growth or through a very small positive growth. We need something more. Something more like specific programmes in order to end the unemployment situation.”
Economists are tentatively talking about signs that Greece’s economic decline is slowing. GDP is expected to shrink a further 4.5 per cent this year and possibly even grow by 0.6 per cent next year, albeit from a very low base.
Mr Venizelos, who is also Foreign Minister and leader of the Pasok socialist party, declared that London, not Switzerland, is now the biggest destination for his country’s tax avoiders.
Having himself been criticised in the past for not doing enough to prevent tax avoidance, he said that he had negotiated an end to Swiss banking secrecy and that, for wealthy Greeks seeking to avoid taxes “now it’s not Switzerland [that is] the first destination. The first destination is always London.”
Greek millionaires have made up a large proportion of foreign investors buying properties in Belgravia and other expensive areas of the capital, while they have also been using the City’s banking services.
Meanwhile, the Greek government has come under criticism for its failure to catch wealthy tax avoiders.
The former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou is facing trial after allegedly removing the names of relatives from a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts handed to officials in the country by France.