(Xinhua) — Greece has emerged stronger from the eight-year debt crisis and focuses on fair growth in the post-bailout era, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday inaugurating the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Addressing the opening ceremony at Greece’s largest annual trade fair hosted in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, the Greek Premier outlined his government’s economic policy after the country’s exit on Aug. 20 this summer from the painful bailout programs which helped the country to avert bankruptcy and stay in the euro zone.
“Greece today is a different country, a country which following the clear exit from the memoranda stands on its feet again, relies on its own forces and can look ahead towards the future with confidence,” Tsipras said during his speech that was broadcast live on Greece’s national broadcaster ERT.
Greece has left behind the harsh austerity and steep recession and has returned to growth, the Greek leader said, pointing to latest positive financial indexes regarding unemployment, investments and growth.
“Today, I did not come here at this historic 83rd TIF to give handouts. I came to share with you our vision for Greece in the new era dawning,” he added.
Underlining that Greece has learnt from past mistakes and will not fall back on policies that created deficits, Tsipras said that with the Greek debt load now sustainable, the country can be reconstructed and heal its wounds.
The primary goal in the government’s strategy from now on is fair growth to the benefit of all, the Greek Premier said.
In order to achieve this target he pledged measures to support social cohesion, employment, entrepreneurism and investments via increased public spending and structural reforms.
In this context he promised among others the increase of the minimum wage in 2019 and the gradual reduction from next year of real estate property taxes, taxation for enterprises and VAT rates, as well as the level of contributions to social insurance funds.
Buoyed by the fiscal outperformance the Greek leader also said that Athens will try to convince lenders this fall that future fiscal goals can still be met without having to further cut pensions next year, as it has been agreed.
With the U.S. as the honored country in this year’s TIF, Tsipras also expressed hope that the two countries will strengthen their cooperation in the future from trade to culture.
The Greek Premier closed his keynote speech defending as step to stability and peace the agreement his government reached this June with Skopje for the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Republic of North Macedonia in order to resolve a long-standing dispute between the two neighboring states.
Outside the venue where he spoke, thousands of Right-wing protesters staged a rally against the name deal, while members of labor unions, Left parties and anarchists marched against the government’s economic policy.
Demonstrators clashed briefly with police forces that dispersed the crowd with tear gas. No injuries were reported, according to Greek national news agency AMNA. More than 4,000 police officers had been deployed across Thessaloniki to keep order.