Klaus Regling (C), Managing Director of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and Pavlos Mylonas (R), CEO of the National Bank of Greece, attend an economic forum in Athens, Greece, on July 16, 2019. Greece's new Finance Minister Christos Staikouras pledged reforms to boost economic growth and outlined the new conservative government's economic policy priorities during the economic forum on Tuesday. Visiting European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Managing Director Klaus Regling welcomed Staikouras' remarks, stressing on his part the need for Greece to respect commitments undertaken under bailout agreements in the post-bailout era. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
ATHENS, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Greece's new Finance Minister Christos Staikouras pledged the implementation of reforms to boost economic growth, outlining the new conservative government's economic policy priorities, during an economic forum hosted here on Tuesday.
Visiting European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Managing Director Klaus Regling welcomed the remarks, stressing on his part the need that Greece respects commitments undertaken under bailout agreements in the post-bailout era.
"Our main strategic goal is economic growth at higher rates, with healthy public finances, a stable banking sector and an extrovert orientation, with steadily rising numbers of new full-time job positions, a fairer distribution of wealth and solidarity with the more vulnerable members of society," Staikouras said addressing the event.
Among the priorities of the new government which took office after the July 7 elections, according to the minister, will be the tax reform aimed to boost economic growth by lowering tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as the implementation of reforms to create a more business friendly environment, attract more investments and support exports by addressing bureaucracy for instance.
Staikouras also promised measures to boost liquidity in the real economy (via the better use of European financing tools as an example) and policies aimed to strengthen social solidarity towards the most disadvantaged.
"The reform drive of new government to stimulate business environment and investment climate is welcome. Although the government has just been elected and details remain to be seen, what is currently known seems promising to the extent that the country also respects the established surveillance framework and its program commitments," Regling said during his speech at the same forum.
"I believe Greece should make growth its top priority while at the same time maintaining the agreed fiscal framework and fostering fairness across society. The fiscal surplus is, together with growth, the necessary condition for debt sustainability," he suggested.
Last summer debt-laden Greece exited its last bailout program, the third implemented since 2010 in order to avert financial meltdown and put her back on the path of growth, and has agreed to post primary budget surpluses of 3.5 percent of GDP until 2022.
The newly elected government has argued for a reduction of this target in exchange of more bold reforms.
Regling, who is due to hold a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis later on Tuesday, repeatedly stressed that fiscal policies should be targeted to foster growth without backtracking from agreed goals.
Greece's commitment to stick to the agreed reform path beyond the end of the program is essential to support growth and debt sustainability, he said.
ESM's chief also advised that structural reforms should not be reversed to woo investments and continue with the privatizations and that the resilience of the banking sector is maintained and safeguarded to help the real economy.
Taking the floor, Pavlos Mylonas, National Bank of Greece CEO, expressed optimism that Greece's banking sector is on the right path.
"The reduction of NPEs (non-performing exposures) from over 100 billion euros (during the peak of the crisis) has been reduced to close to 80 billion euros (in early 2019), despite the fact that for most of this period there has been no GDP growth," he said.
"The banks have provided to the SSM (European Central Bank's Single Supervisory Mechanism) targets for a additional 50 billion euro reduction of NPEs over the years to 2021," he added. (1 euro= 1.12 U.S. dollars)