Greece is not the scapegoat of the eurozone or the global economic crisis, Greek government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Sunday, in his keynote address to the luncheon of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) Annual Membership Meeting, adding that the Greek people are making immense sacrifices to save the country and pledging that Greece's fiscal deficit will be reduced regardless of the political cost.
He added that it is Greece's irreversible decision to do everything necessary to meet its obligations to its partners, to the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and stressed: "We will win this war".
In his address, titled "Breaking the vicious circle", Venizelos outlined in detail the causes and the key points in the Greek, European and international economic crisis, noting that in the case of the eurozone it is now obvious that the crisis is something more than an economic or taxation problem but, rather, a "political and institutional crisis".
Venizelos stressed the need for "quick and decisive" actions to convince the markets, adding that, in the current international and European framework "the Greek problem" is indisputably significant -- above all for the Greeks themselves -- but it is not the eurozone's core problem, nor could it be a catalyst for a new phase of the global economic crisis. "The size of the Greek economy does not allow it such a role," he underscored.
The Greek minister underlined that the debt problem in the eurozone is of "vital importance", as was the fact that three of the 17 eurozone member countries have taken recourse to the support mechanism provided by the eurozone and the IMF, and this indicates that "very significant steps" have been taken in the direction of dealing with the problem.
Those three countries (Greece, Ireland and Portugal) represent just 6 percent of the eurozone's total debt, while Greece on itself accounts for approximately 3 percent of the eurozone's total debt, bit could cause a domino effect at a European-wide dimension, he continued.
Venizelos also outlined Greece's potential, noting that, based on its historical, cultural, tourist and shipping dimensions and despite the crisis of the last three years, Greece remains among the 30 largest economies worldwide although it has a population of must 11 million.
Outlining the causes that led to the current situation, Venizelos said that Greece has a "large scale" black economy, extensive tax evasion, a large current accounts deficit and an equally large deficit in competitiveness.
The minister set out the events leading to Greece's recourse to the support mechanism, noting inter alia that in March 2011 it was ascertained that the parameters of the programme were excessively strict and thus the European Council decided that the initial terms of the loan to Greece needed to be substantially improved both with respect to the repayment period and to the interest rate.
"We have done many difficult things in these past 15 months of implementation of the programme," he said, adding that "we achieved a speedy reduction of the fiscal deficit by 5 percentage points of GDP in the first year of implementation of the programme". He also noted a series of "significant reforms" made during that same period and others that are on the way to implementation, which "are absolutely necessary for the future of our nation".
Venizelos further referred to the "fundamental decision" of July 21, noting that since then and up to the end of August there have been no new problems. "What we did have were the same, known difficulties, including the particularities of the Greek political system, the lack of broader political consensus on the need for full and speedy implementation of the programme, contrary to what is taking place in Portugal and Ireland," he said, adding however that despite all that, "there are certain positive indications of political consensus, such as in the case of the privatisations".
"I don't think that you can find many examples at international level of such an immense and speedy effort for fiscal adjustment. That is important for us, to bring to an end the vicious circle that has entrapped us," he added.
"Greece is not the scapegoat of the eurozone or the international economy. Greece is a historic and proud country, whose citizens are making many sacrifices in order for the crisis to be overcome," Venizelos stressed, noting that "Greece's decision to do everything needed to fulfill its obligations to its partners, to the eurozone and the IMF, is final and irrevocable".
"There is so much that has been done over the last 15 months. It is not everything, but it is a lot. But the limelight always alls on the delays and divergences, and not on the greater picture of the achievements," Venizelos noted.
Outlining the "new supplementary measures" taken by the government, Venizelos stressed that "Greece is and will always be a member of the EU, of the eurozone, and will always respect and implement the decisions of the European Council".
He further stressed that "it is only reasonable and fair that we receive an institutional and political shield, not only for Greece, but for the eurozone as a whole and for the international economy in general".