Mitsotakis has promised a “rebirth of the middle class”, which was squeezed by increases in VAT and income taxes, as well as the imposition during the crisis of a new heavy tax on real estate. The conservative leader announced that at the end of July his government will present a bill to lower these taxes, as well as the corporate tax rate from the current 28 percent to 20 percent. Tax relief has been a mantra for Greek small and medium-sized businesses for years. “For all Greek companies, during these years, the problem has been taxes,” said Elena Kouretsi, sales manager at Vitamin Bar, a company that patents juicers in a dozen countries.
“Even if you have work, production and sales, in the end eighty percent of your income is gone,” said the 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that she is hopeful that the new government will show “understanding” to entrepreneurship. Vasilis Maselos, president of the Greek ready-to-wear association (SEPEE), said he believes that Mitsotakis “has promised reasonable things”.
However, he warned that “the problems are immense”, starting with a technologically backward government administration. This businessman, who sells swimsuits and nightgowns in Japan, said the volume of business in textiles is 50 percent below the level in 2008, before the global and Greece’s own economic crisis struck. “People only buy what is essential, and sometimes not even that,” he said.
State statistics put Greeks’ purchasing power at one-third lower than the EU average. But “if we grow three or four percent per year – compared to 2.1 percent projected this year by the European Commission – in five or six years can recover much of the lost ground,” he added. It is a hope shared by civil engineer Kostas Kyriazis, still active at 68 years old. During the crisis, his small office lost up to 60 percent of its revenue.
But since the end of 2018, they have observed “a small growth”, mostly from renovations and apartment refurbishments linked to Airbnb rentals. “There are many opportunities in Greece,” particularly in tourism, he told AFP.
Panayotis Petrakis, professor of finance at the University of Athens, calculates Greece will not return to pre-crisis prosperity levels until 2025. Available income “has been rising very slowly for two years, at a rate of about 150 euros per head. It will continue to rise, the question is at what speed,” Petrakis told AFP.