Greek prime minister sees normalcy ahead

Sept. 17, 2013 at 6:54 PM
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ATHENS, Greece, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens said the Greek economy would take six years to return to pre-crisis standards.

"According to most, we will not need a couple of decades, not a couple of generations, but only six years to get back at the pre-crisis levels of our standard of living and gross domestic product," Samaras said in a speech made on Monday at a seminar on democracy organized by the International Herald Tribune.

Samaras said Greece was "not out of the woods yet," but that its nascent recovery was beginning to take hold.

"Last year we were the weak link of the European Union; the basic source of uncertainty about Europe's future and the future of our common currency. Now there is no uncertainty about the euro anymore and Greece is not perceived as the weak link of Europe ... quite the opposite," he said.

Samaras said that the economic crisis in Greece had been a test of democratic principles, warning that the ability to compromise in a democracy was threatened by "populism and extremism."

"This is a nightmare scenario for any democracy. This is why populism has to be resisted in every step of the way. And extremism has to be confronted in all different shapes and forms," he said.

With the country in its sixth year of recession, Greece has lost 25 percent of its GDP, he said. Unemployment has reached "nearly 28 percent," he said.

He credited help from "our European partners" and said a turnaround is under way.

"We have accomplished about three quarters of a gigantic fiscal adjustment of about 15 percent of our current GDP in just four years. We are achieving a primary surplus hopefully by the end of this year and, if you disregard our deep and prolonged recession, we are running the largest cyclically adjusted primary surplus in Europe, as well as the largest structural surplus," he said.

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