Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday said that the rise in the cost of living was the issue that concerned Greek society above all others for entirely understandable reasons, replying to questions during a press conference on the topic “Economy, Development, Labour Market”.
“We saw natural gas rates that were ten times higher than those we had two years ago. Consequently the international economy has to deal with a phenomenon that required measures at the level of central banks from all the advanced economies. Interest rates rose in order to restrain inflation and all countries resorted to using all options offered by their state budgets to support households and enterprises, especially the most vulnerable,” Mitsotakis said.
He said noted that “prices are still high but the last ELSTAT report showed a slowing of the inflation rate”. He pointed out that, throughout the imported inlflation crisis, the government responded with a series of measures that supported disposable income and which allowed it to neutralise a series of “inflation bombs”, the most important of which were high electricity prices.
On profiteering, he noted that checks in the market were “not a simple matter” but that “for the first time we have laws and regulatory tools at our disposal that allow us to check the market with more efficiency compared with the past”. He also said that there is a provision against profiteering which involves very heavy fines”.
Replying to a press question on taxes and whether indirect taxes will also be reduced if his government is re-elected, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis replied: “I am glad, firstly, that you acknowledge that the government has fully delivered on its pre-election pledge to lower taxes.”
He noted that all taxes which the government promised to lower before the elections have been reduced, while there were also reductions in some taxes not mentioned during the election campaign, as well as significantly lowered social insurance contributions for employees and employers.
“If I had to recap, I would tell you that we have fully delivered on what we promised prior to the election, when I said that [main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis] Tsipras had wiped out Greek society and especially the middle class and that we will return to the middle class everything that Tsipras took from them.” the prime minister said.
Women and youth unemployment significantly reduced
Asked whether the next four-year term will be one of income and wage increases, as well as whether the acceleration of the minimum wage increase (April 1 instead of May 1) was linked to the timing of the elections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis replied negatively, in a press conference held on Monday.
“As the tourist season starts on April 1, and since too many workers in the industry are paid the minimum wage, it is right that the increase should cover the entire tourist season,” he explained.
He also explained that “the increase in wages has primarily to do with improving the productivity of the Greek economy. As our economy becomes more competitive, more extroverted, as it produces more added wealth, there will be an opportunity for businesses. But the labour market itself will demand the increase of the salaries of employees. Take tourism for example,” he said.
He also underlined that “we are not interested in being able to offer our fellow Greeks, especially young people, any job. We preferably want these jobs to be stable and pay better wages, so we have legislated a series of incentives.”
Regarding the minimum wage, he pointed out that the increase that has been legislated is a significant increase.
Responding to a question about unemployment, especially for young people and women, which noted that unemployment levels remain stubbornly high, the prime minister pointed out that this opinion is not borne out by the data.
“Women’s unemployment in the EU was reduced by 10.3% on average in the period 2019-2022, while in Greece it was reduced by 29.8%. We are starting from a low base but the reduction has been much greater in terms of female unemployment than any other country,” he said. “And among young people, the reduction of unemployment in the 15-29 age group was 7.5% in the EU while in Greece it was 17.5%. Let me emphasise again that we are starting from a higher base. But the reduction was significant in both of these demographic groups and not negligible.”
Mitsotakis also stressed that these are jobs with greater added value, “more sustainable and more in line with the model of the competitiveness of the Greek economy for which we are working and try to serve.”
Greece’s image abroad is now very positive
The image now projected by Greece abroad is very positive, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a press conference on Monday. Referring to his recent visit to Davos, meanwhile, he underlined that there was huge interest for investments the country.
“Investments, of course, mean more and better jobs,” he added.
However, he underlined that this good picture “should not make us believe that there are no problems in Greek society,” while offering assurances that it is the policy being implemented that has created the additional fiscal space needed to provide targeted support to the Greeks that are struggling financially.