As Greece emerged from the economic crisis the priority going forward was the creation of new jobs, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a meeting with regional bodies in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, announcing plans to set up a Western Macedonia Development Fund.
The goal was jobs and for this it was necessary to take measures favouring investments, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, he said.
“In some cases we must invent the way. We must think up the tools and means and I think this initiative has this attribute. I should point out that, along with the Western Macedonia Fund, there is the creation of various financing structures – for example guarantee funds, subsidy funds, micro-loan funds and letters of guarantee. Structures that will be focused on the problems and needs of the region’s businesses,” he said.
The prime minister made the statements in a meeting with Western Macedonia Regional governor Theodoros Karypidis, representatives of local chambers and local administration in the presence of Alternate Economy and Development Minister Alexis Charitsis and Deputy Interior Minister (Macedonia-Thrace) Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha.
He noted that the Western Macedonia Fund was an “experiment” that would be implemented in other regions if it was successful.
The prime minister said the Fund would be set up with a starting capital of 10 million euros, half of which would be contributed by the state via the economy ministry, and the other half by the Western Macedonia Region, and the Kozani and Florina chambers of commerce. The management of the fund will be handled by the Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development, he said.
Its aim, according to the prime minister, will be to facilitate access to financing for Greek businesses, especially those that don’t meet the criteria for funding via the usual financing instruments, such as EU funds, the developmental law and others, as well as to encourage investments in the area.
Tsipras also remarked on the economy ministry’s success in the absorption of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds, saying that this was partly responsible for the “lower-than-expected” growth figures in the last quarter of 2016 that were a surprise to some. According to Tsipras, these funds were pumped into the real economy all together in the last quarter of 2015, at the end of the year, whereas absorption of NSRF funds in 2016 was more uniformly spread out.
“This picture is not as worrying as some would like to present it, at least for those that know the reason that caused it,” Tsipras added.
The prime minister also referred to the dialogue that the government intends to launch on the strategic plan for Greece’s growth model, which it will present to local government and business associations over the coming period.
“This time we want to try the opposite tack. Instead of starting from the top down, from the tip of the pyramid, to start from the base. We want the national strategic plan to be put together for each region and the total to make up national strategic planning. It is a challenge and a wager. To give local government and local associations a say over the next period, in order to plan the next day for the national economy,” Tsipras said.