Greece Transformed From Ugly Duckling into Beautiful Swan, Says US Commerce Secretary Ross

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted the impressive return of the Greek economy to growth during his speech at Capital Link’s 21st Annual Investment Conference in New York on Monday.

Speaking at The Union League Club in New York City at a dinner reception to honor investor John Paulson, Ross praised the Greek government, arguing that the pro-investment policy it has recently adopted has been instrumental in achieving this success.

Ross opened his remarks with an overview of what he called “”the great success” of the Mitsotakis government. “The new government has helped transform Greece for being Europe’s ugly duckling into potentially a beautiful, bright swan,” Ross stated.

In this context, he assured the audience that none of these positive results is an accident, saying that they all reflect the pro-business policies of Mitsotakis’ administration. “If I may, I would say he adopted Trump’s style: tax reduction and deregulation. And Greece is finally implementing the old Athens airport, the project that was delayed so many times by the Tsipras government,” the secretary noted.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with Greek ministers at Capital Link’s dinner reception

Recalling that just few years ago, one could barely have imagined a speedy recovery of the Greek economy, the Commerce Secretary presented a number of positive economic indicators which highlight the impressive rebounding of the Greek economy. While expressing great optimism for the outlook for the economy, he warned that Athens must remain firmly committed to the reform effort.

Reflecting on Greek bond yields, Ross wondered aloud “who would have imagined that Greece’s sovereign debt will trade at a lower yield than the Netherlands’?” before stating “even more astonishing is that Greece borrows now at a cheaper rate than the United States.”

The Secretary went on to describe Greece’s growth as one among the strongest in the European Union. Regarding next year, Ross said that even the IMF, which traditionally has more conservative predictions, is forecasting 2.3% growth, a number that he described as “particularly good” by European standards.

According to Ross, these growth figures are impressive given that the Greek government has managed to meet the fiscal targets of producing a 3.5% primary surplus. As he explained, “very few countries have even experienced meaningful GDP growth with the negative economic impact of such government surpluses. In fact, your fellow EU members are struggling with growth even with the stimulated effect of large primary deficits.”

Commenting on Standard and Poor’s upgrading of Greece’s sovereign credit rating by one notch, from B+ to BB-, Ross predicted that Greece’s credit profile would improve even more within the next two years, provided that the government continues to implement its reform agenda.

Regarding unemployment, the Commerce Secretary stated that “unemployment in Greece has dropped from its crisis peak level of 28% to 16.7% forecast this year, the lowest rate in almost nine years.”

Ross proceeded to explain that “although it is still higher than it was prior to the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is consistently decreasing, month by month, and it is forecasted to drop to 15.4% in 2020.”

Describing a wide array of positive economic figures for Greece, the secretary cited the recent rise in housing prices, a surge in consumer confidence and the increase in exports out of the country.

Ross also said he is looking forward to welcoming Greece’s Prime Minister to Washington, D.C., where he will visit President Donald Trump on January 7 at the White House.

2019’s Capital Link Hellenic Leadership Award

The US Commerce Secretary’s speech followed a ceremony presenting the “2019 Capital Link Hellenic Leadership Award” to John Paulson, President & Portfolio Manager of Paulson & Co. Inc. for his outstanding contributions to Greece.

The financier has been one of the early investors in Greece, believing in the country and its potential, patiently taking the long-term approach and staying the course despite experiencing the inevitable bumps on the road.

Paulson told the assembled audience that he feels proud to be associated with a country like Greece.

Along with most of the speakers at the event, he also described the title of this year’s Forum, “Greece is Back,” as the most accurate one.

He went on to shower compliments on the new political administration in Greece, having  especially warm words for its new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

With the change in the government’s economic policy, with its focus on growth, job creation, lower taxes, direct foreign investment and a more effective government, Paulson strongly believes that we are at the beginning of what can be a multi-year and perhaps — if these policies are maintained — a multi-decade period of prosperity for Greece.

Paulson said that the positive effects of the new government can already be seen in the stock market, real estate, banking and all other financial sectors of the country, and he feels very confident that Greece can soon serve as the new shining light for all of Europe.

The financier believes that this is just the beginning of the recovery process for Greece, in which growth will not only continue, but accelerate, in the future.