PM Mitsotakis urges Japanese businesses to consider investment in Greece
Accompanied by a Greek delegation, the prime minister was received by the Director, Executive Chairman and Representative Executive Officer of Hitachi, Toshiaki Higashihara, and addressed the members of the Keidanren.
Pointing out that this was the first visit by a Greek prime minister to Japan since 2005, Mitsotakis said its main purpose was to show that the Greek economy had overcome the crisis and was now on a dynamic path of growth, after implementing a series of major structural reforms.
"...[These] have made Greece a very interesting and attractive investment destination for foreign capital...I do not think that many people would have bet in 2019 that Greece would be one of the fastest-growing economies in the eurozone, as we have been in the last two years," he said, noting that this was the result of sweeping reforms and a policy of reducing taxes while ensuring fiscal balance.
"If you look at our public finances, we have permanently left the years of fiscal crisis behind us. We have had the most rapid reduction of public debt as a percentage of GDP out of all European countries," Mitsotakis said.
He noted that Greece was forecast to have a primary surplus in 2023 and had maintained fiscal discipline, in spite of the upcoming general elections in the spring. The Greek premier also cited an Economist Intelligence Unit report comparing 34 OECD countries, which examined 91 economic indicators and found that Greece had the biggest improvement in the business climate in 2019-2022.
"What we saw as a result of these important changes was a significant increase in foreign direct investment in the country," Mitsotakis said, stating that both 2021 and 2022 had been "record years" in which global giants such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon had invested large amounts of capital for the construction of data centres.
PM urges Japanese businesses to consider Greece
Mitsotakis urged Japanese businesses that want to invest in Greece's general region to look closely at Greece as a potential investment destination.
"I believe that it is a combination of three things: a prudent fiscal policy that has reduced taxes without jeopardising the country's fiscal discipline, significant reforms on all fronts and the fact that we have reformed our banking system," he said.
He stressed that the Greek economy was a great deal more open than it had been 10 years earlier, with exports as a percentage of GDP now exceeding 40 pct, while emphasising the digital transformation in interactions with the public sector, pointing out that there had been more than one billion digital transactions with private citizens and businesses in 2022.
Greek bonds to reach investment grade within 2023
The prime minister referred to recent upgrades of Greece's credit rating by rating agencies, most recently by Fitch, and the fact that the country was just one step away from regaining investment grade, which would allow Japanese institutional investors to once again buy Greek bonds.
"Fitch upgraded us two days ago to one notch below investment grade. I fully expect to reach investment grade within 2023 and this will open up new possibilities for Japanese capital to return to Greece in the coming years," he said.
Greece to have important role in new European energy architecture
Mitsotakis also highlighted Greece's potential role in the new European energy architecture, through infrastructure that makes it a hub for the transfer of energy and which enhances the region's energy security but also by conducting its own exploration for fossil fuels and the further penetration of renewables in its energy mix.
"We are investing significantly in regasification installations...especially in northern Greece, and it is our ambition to become energy exporters and providers of energy security, at least for our Balkan neighbours," Mitsotakis said, while also noting the start of a search for potential natural gas deposits southwest of Crete, with promising early results.
He also pointed out that Greece was one of the top 10 producers of electricity using renewables.
The prime minister wrapped up his speech by referring to the mutual benefits of further enhancing bilateral cooperation with Japan:
"I believe we have much to gain by enhancing this cooperation on many fronts. I hope during my stay in Tokyo to have the opportunity to present the ways in which Greece is changing, to convince you to look more systematically at all that is happening in the country and hopefully mobilise more funds from this part of the world for investment in our country," he said.