"About 68 000 companies were closed between 2010 and 2012 and tens of thousands more are expected to close by the end of the year. At least for two years, Greek businessmen have been trying to survive in an uneven battle against recession, lack of liquidity, excessive taxes and the dilemma "for or against the memorandum," the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Konstantinos Michalos said.
At a discussion with representatives of Greek parties organized by the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he stated that this dilemma was devoid of any essence.
"We want the state to have a government on 18 June that will ensure its remaining within the common European currency area." Konstantinos Michalos said that the most serious problem that Greek business is facing today is the uncertainty about the future of Greece.
"The parties are obliged to give us a concrete answer," he said and stressed, "The responsibility is now in the hands of pro-European forces, regardless of the political spectrum they belong to. We urge them to leave their differences aside and agree on a common government framework."
Konstantinos Michalos said that the main task of the future Greek cabinet should be to renegotiate the terms of the memorandum of economic aid and, in particular, to amend some specific terms, which are deepening the recession and hindering economic recovery. He also suggested that reforms should be accelerated, as for more than two years now they have just been under discussion in public without actually having been implemented.
They include accelerating the implementation of the programme for state property use, which in combination with privatization could help achieve the budget objectives. "This will reduce the pressure on incomes of citizens," he said.
His other recommendations were recovery of state administration, full liberalization of markets and jobs, and improving the business environment to attract new investment. "These measures include the completion of the legal framework relating to land use, simplification of procedures for the establishment and expansion of businesses, unification of laws and accelerating the processes of justice.
He called for the establishment of a stable and competitive tax system. "It is not possible for Greece to expect investment at a time when companies are taxed at rates four times higher than those in neighbouring rival countries," stressed the President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In his presentation, the New Democracy representative and former Minister of Development repeated the highlights of the economic programme of the party presented by Antonis Samaras and attacked the main rival party SYRIZA, accusing it of populism. "It is dangerous and unacceptable to hear that some parties declare their intention to unilaterally cancel the memorandum of economic aid. Particularly dangerous are the statements about bank nationalization, tax increases and suspension of any business activities by the state," he said.
Dimitris Papadimoulis from SYRIZA took up the gauntlet and defended his party’s positions, which hardly appeased Greek businessmen.
The representative of PASOK said what should be done for business, without mentioning that the majority of mistakes are the product of the "green" government, and his colleague from Independent Greeks only described the problems and allocated the responsibility for them between the two major parties PASOK and New Democracy, but did not give any concrete proposals.
The discussion involved representatives of the Communist Party, which happened for the first time, and the Democratic Left.