Tourism: challenges and priorities outlined by PM George Papandreou

Addressing the 19th General Assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on 4th May, Prime Minister George Papandreou outlined the priorities, the goals and the successes of the government policy in tourism sector and the promotion of Greece abroad. Papandreou focused on the simplification of the licensing process in tourist investments, stressing that tourism should be one of the basic pillars for boosting the Greek economy.
“In the coming months there will be a licensing simplification in investments and facilitation of visa issuing for nationals of emerging economies such as China and Russia. […] There will also be a reduction in the prices of sea transport tickets, as well as in landing and take-off fees at several airports,” said Papandreou noting that the tourism industry has been reporting positive signs as what is being offered is quality service at good prices.
Referring to the enormous potential of Internet and social networking, Papandreou hailed the online promotion of Greece via the official site of Visit Greece, the newly launched my-greece.gr, and through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
Prime Minister.GR: Tourism policy – Results (in Greek); YouTube: You in Greece Campaign [VIDEO]
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

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PM George Papandreou in “Foreign Policy” Magazine

Prime Minister George Papandreou in an in-depth interview in the American magazine Foreign Policy (July 19) explained the reasons behind the crisis and the measures taken by his government in order to tackle it.
He stressed that with the support of the European Union, Greece decided against defaulting, which would cause insurmountable problems especially for the banking institutions in Greece and Europe alike.
He recognized that there was a lack of transparency; there was a lot of money that was lost, wasted, through a huge bureaucracy and patronage. Nevertheless, he highlighted that “we’re committed to changing the situation.
My government, for example, has now brought in laws such as total transparency in all signatures in the public sector, putting more and more tax reform resources and contracts online.”
The premier empathised with Greeks’ sentiments of unhappiness and pain, but “the wide majority of the people realize that we needed to make changes that were long overdue in our country, such as making governance much more responsible, and running the country much more transparent.”
Finally, he debunked recent media stereotypes of Greeks being lazy and concluded saying that: “we’ve seen in this crisis is that we need more Europe, not less…[ ]
…We need to find global governance and we need to find it based on some common values on which we can agree – democratic values.”
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Government announced austerity plan

» PM: “Sacrifices will Bear Fruits”

The government announced yesterday an additional set of measures bound to slash the double-digit public deficit.
Speaking yesterday at a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Papandreou said that the emphasis is now shifting to what the European Union will do. 
The new measures aim at bringing into public coffers some €4.8 billion, amount which corresponds to 2% of the country’s GDP.  

» Pay Cuts

In particular, the new measures include a 30% pay cut of public sector’s supplements allocated annually, and a 12% across the board cut of public servants’ benefits. Moreover, subsidies to public entities and their social security funds will be reduced by 10%.
Any additional remuneration in the public sector will be trimmed by 50%, and compensation for overtime work will shrink by 30%.

Executive bonuses in the public sector will be abolished and the Public Investment Budget will be curtailed by 5% (€500 million). As of 2011, the ratio for public sector hirings will be one for every five retirees.

» Taxation

VAT is expected to rise at all cases by an average 1% to 2% and an extra levy on fuel, cigarettes, liqueur and luxury products will be imposed.
A one-off tax of 1% on personal incomes above €100.000 will also be introduced, together with a 15% rise in taxation of offshore companies’ real estate property.
Kathimerini daily: Further Cuts and Tax Hikes Announced
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Tax and spending policy

» PM: Tackling Economic Woes

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired a Cabinet meeting that discussed the draft tax bill and public-sector incomes policy.
He said that the government’s efforts to tackle the country’s economic problems will focus on three axes: reducing public debt, promoting growth, and accelerating legislative and institutional measures.
Papandreou stressed that the government’s primary duty was to save the economy, striving for fair solutions that would protect the lower and middle classes as much as possible.

» FinMin: New Tax Rates

A range of public spending cuts and tax adjustments were presented by the government yesterday, following an announcement last week by the premier that drastic measures would be taken to prevent Greece from defaulting.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou unveiled more specific policies, which included plans to cut the salaries of the premier and his ministers, a moratorium on hiring in the public sector this year – excluding however health services –  as well as changes to the tax system, which will now contain more tax brackets and will lead to higher earners paying more.

Greece: Foreign Capital Inflows Up

» Creating a Trustworthy Market

Foreign capital inflows in Greece grew by 40.5%, (€6.48 billion) with net inflows soaring by 147.8% (€3.47 billion), in 2008, compared with the previous year, Invest in Greece Agency – the Hellenic investment promotion body – announced yesterday.  Citing figures on Foreign Direct Investments in Greece, published by the Bank of Greece, the Agency said this positive development – amidst an unprecedented international financial crisis – was evidence of foreign investors’ trust towards the Greek market (mainly from the EU and US).

» I.T. Is “The Key”

Meeting with Israeli and British businesspeople, Invest in Greece Agency presented Greece’s comparative advantages in the field of advanced technologies such as Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) systems.  Both in Israel and United Kingdom, the agency provided information on the advantages deriving from a possible expansion of major technology companies’ business activities in Greece. The Greek ICT sector offers highly skilled human capital and geographic proximity to the markets of Southeast Europe and East Mediterranean , elements which can accommodate the growing need for alternative R&D investment locations around the globe, given the fact the ICT sector still offers considerable room for growth, profit margins and projects of high added value.  See also: Business Works: Greece: the economic hub of the region

Greece Answer to the International Finance Crisis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The Hellenic Parliament yesterday voted in favour of the €28 billion support package to shield the Greek banking sector. The concept behind government’s actions was to enhance the liquidity of the economy in response to the impact of the international financial crisis, using the banking system as a means to this end. Through the new law, funding is provided for economic growth, for boosting employment, small- and medium-sized enterprises and housing loans. Last week the European Union gave its approval, confirming the conformity of the draft with the respective European policy. After the European Commission’s green light, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis carried out limited corrective changes to the bill, so as not to stir illicit competition between the banks of different countries. These changes are: Public guarantees can only last up to three years instead of five; the same reduction will be applied to public sector bonds. In addition, banks included in the €5 billion capital base support package will not be entitled to distribute dividends to their stockholders for as long as they partake in the plan. Ministry of Economy and Finance: The plan for enhancing liquidity in the Greek economy & The Draft Law & The Greek Economy at a glance ; Hellenic Bank Association: www.hba.gr European Commission: A quick guide to the EU’s response to the financial crisis