Greek PM plans for a major overhaul of agricultural production



The Greek PM presented his plan for reforming agricultural production in Greece, while speaking with farmers and producers in Mesara during a tour of Crete.

His announcement comes after receiving EU criticism for passing legislation to offer low income pensioners a life-line in the form of a one-off cash benefit which will not be taxed or offset or seized to pay off previous debts to the public sector.

During his presentation in Mesara, Tsipras noted that Greece cannot rely on tourism alone and urged for an overhaul, a full-scale reconstruction of agricultural production.

"A country could not depend on tourism alone," he said.

"Our main concern is a reconstruction of production but this cannot proceed unless we talk about a new model for the rural economy and if this is not linked to a growth model for exploiting the country's comparative advantages," he said.

"I am well aware that farmers have shouldered the greatest burden in this crisis and want to say that support of farmers is a moral obligation, and not just because this will improve the prospects of the economy.

The PM listened to the demands and problems faced by residents in the area, noting that the main reason for his visit "was to listen, not to talk."

"A sincere dialogue with the citizens, organisations and local government on the problems that we are all aware of and on the possibility of having a prospect for solving them, is what has the greatest importance at this time," he noted.

Tsipras referred to the country's advantages, especially its human resources, noting that these had been sidelined in the "skewed model" that had led to the crisis. It was important to have a discussion now on how to put these advantages to work and start generated wealth, he added. In this context, he added, his visit to Mesara was not a chance decision.

Greece's agricultural economy had shown resilience during the years of crisis, in spite of the difficulties, increasing exports by 12% in 2015 and was set to record a similar performance in 2016, he noted. The prime minister also referred to the government's efforts and the tools at its disposal to carry out its plans for a reconstruction of the farming sector.

Among them he listed the Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020, which included 4.7 billion euros in Community funds and targeted young people, organic farming, processing and other projects, including water resources management works. Another goal was to link local farm production and food products with tourism, with 9.5 million euros earmarked for advertising and promotion.

The wager in the years to come was to ensure that these numbers were not "empty words," Tsipras added, which was why the government was aiming for "equitable growth" that produced a dividend, a social redistribution to those that needed it most and had been paying the cost of the crisis all these years.

Speaking in the city of Iraklio later on Tuesday, Tsipras ruled out the possibility that Greece will agree to additional measures to be implemented after the bailout programme. Both the programme and the agreements that came with it would come to an end in mid-2018, he said.

"After that, and here I want in all cases to be absolutely clear, there are no more commitments and measures. [This] is a message that must be understood inside and outside the country. Our country's sovereignty will be restored. Supervision and the memorandums are ending," Tsipras said.

He pointed to encouraging news on the unemployment front, which he said was dropping "slowly but steadily" and noted that a 1.1% surplus would activate not a spending "cutter" but its opposite, allowing the government to hand out a 13th pension.

Tsipras said that the European far-right and populism could no longer be allowed to dictate the policies that Greece will follow.

"Greece might be in a programme but it is also an independent country. If it honours its commitments and observes the rules, it should not have to tolerate being told what to do. The second review will end well, promptly and without additional measures after the end of the programme, without excessive demands by some of the partners," Tsipras said.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.