The Delphi Economic Forum: a brief overview
For the second year in a row, the quaint Delphi Cultural Centre hosted the newly-born Delphi Economic Forum bringing together personalities from the political, diplomatic, academic, business and media world - both from Greece and abroad. They aimed, in four days of panel discussions and talks, to mull over the "Outlook for Greece and the Region: Vision 2020-2030".
The wide spectrum of the Delphi Economic Forum discussions corresponds to the problems of the situation Greece finds itself at the end of the seventh year of successive bail-in/Adjustment Programmes, or if one prefers it that way at the end of its eight year of recession (although, to be true, 2016 seems to have been a year of hesitant recovery, at a +0,3% of GDP pace).
It is difficult even to attempt a summing-up of the Delphi Economic Forum findings. Still, a hesitant optimism seemed to surface, best captured by the presentation of Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras who - having first vigorously countered the relative pessimism of both the IMF's and the European Commission's forecasts about Geek growth perspectives and fiscal primary surplus potential - outlined a "mild debt relief exercise" for Greece. A low primary surplus senario (3.5% of GDP for 2018-20, with 2% afterwards instead of 3.5% until 2027 with a gradual decline to 2% by 2037 as now envisaged) with a GDP growth rate of 2% after 2022 and mild relief to Greek debt mainly through interest payments smoothing could bring Greek debt to a path of sustainability. Less optimist views were also voiced: ex Prime-Minister Costas Simitis aired his concern that Grexit is not a notion totally off the table; ex-Bank of Greece Governor (and -ECB Vice-President) Lucas Papademos joined EuroWorking Group Chair Thomas Wieser in stressing the importance for the current Greek Programme review to be completed as soon as possible (Stournaras was even more pressing, asking for the review to be completed "by yesterday") to get back a feeling of stability; ex-Deputy PM Evangelos Venizelos considered Greece is already in the path of it fourth Adjustment Programme.
In a different field of threats, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt used diplomatic restraint to remain relatively optimist over the tensions in Greek-Turkish relations, but did not hesitate to express fears of an "accident" in the Aegean where extremely advanced weapons system keep operating at very close distances.
Last but not least, the background of intra-European problems was dwelt upon extensively. In different but converging ways, Simitis, Papademos as well as Professor Loukas Tsoukalis considered that if the European construction does not go forward, with i.a. the completion of the Euro area, then it could well gradually fade out. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas presented the Juncker "White Paper" for the Future of Europe in the usual "European", non-committal way, raising concerns rather than assuaging them that a two-speed or a variable-geometry Europe might serve as a way for the laggards (in a European construction mainly for the "willing and able") to be left behind without them feeling deliberately shut out..