Introductory Remarks for the Keynote Address by the Prime Minister of Greece


Introductory Remarks for the Keynote Address by the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras 

by Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 12 March 2015


Dear Prime Minister Tsipras, Ministers, Ambassadors, Directors, Colleagues, Dear Guests:


It’s a great pleasure to welcome to the OECD, in the context of our Leaders’ Programme, the newly elected Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Alexis Tsipras.


Prime Minister Tsipras has come to the OECD with a high-level Delegation - in fact with three of his top Ministers - for a one day visit with a rich agenda to identify ways in which the OECD can help to strengthen and develop the new Greek government’s reform programme.


Earlier this afternoon, we had a very interesting Seminar, where we discussed possible ways to advance meaningful reforms to help Greece improve its tax system, its public administration, its social security system, and its anti-corruption mechanisms. We also discussed ways to strengthen its competition framework; to improve its public asset management; promote labour market reform to boost job creation; build a smart regulatory framework for a better business climate; and develop the needed skills for the knowledge economy; among others.


Greece needs to implement solid reforms in all these areas to address its 25-25-50 challenge: I mean the contraction of 25% in its GDP per capita, the 25% unemployment rate and the 50% youth unemployment rate. Our policy Seminar showed that the OECD has a lot to contribute to a Member country at a difficult moment; not substituting anybody, but delivering in our duty to provide all the help we can to our Member countries. It is our duty.


  • Greece is facing huge challenges. It will take a lot of effort, political leadership and technical skills to deliver results in all these areas. But Greece is not starting from zero. The country has important strengths: A hard-working population. In fact, according to our latest data, Greece has the third hardest working population in the OECD, after Mexico and Korea, with more than 2000 hours worked per year per person (although with low labour productivity); it also has the second highest rate of self-employed in the OECD;


  • Strong services and services related sectors like maritime transport and ship building; or the tourism sector, which keeps breaking records, with the second highest annual growth rate in Europe in 2014, of 17% year-on-year;


  • Good examples of competitive public and private enterprises: like the International Airport of Athens, a public-private partnership just classified as the Best Airport in Europe in 2014; and companies like Aegean Airlines, chosen by travellers as the best Regional Airline in Europe for the fourth consecutive year in 2014.


  • And recently proven success with reforms. For example, modernising the Public Employment Service, strengthening the Hellenic Competition Commission, opening professional services to competition, and simplifying business licensing procedures and red tape for exports.


The fact that the new Greek Government has asked for the OECD’s help with their reform agenda shows that they want to get it right. The design, promotion and legislation of a solid reform package will be crucial, but the real key to success, as proven by many Member countries, lies in the magic of implementation, implementation, implementation. And we stand ready to help also on this front.


Mr Prime Minister, you can count on the OECD. Consider us as an extension of your own capacities. I am sure that we will find a common ground to help the Greek people, through a mutual learning process, delivering better policies for better lives.


Please tell us your plans. The floor is yours.


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