Greece and the European Union implemented many measures to counter black money and the “grey economy,” but nothing so “draconian” or drastic as the Indian government’s demonetisation exercise, Greek Minister George Katrougalos has said.
Mr. Katrougalos, who is on an official visit, said that both the EU and Greece had, like India, discussed the issue of unaccounted wealth as well as the possibility of demonetising the high-value €500 note. “We have taken some measures in Greece, not as draconian as yours [the Indian government’s]. For instance, anybody who goes to bank to deposit cash must give his name and financial records. So, we are trying ourselves to track this money,” the alternate or deputy Foreign Minister told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.
However, Mr. Katrougalos, who was formerly Labour Minister and is a senior member of the Syriza coalition that rules Greece, clarified that it was difficult to draw comparisons, or to speak about the Indian decision as an outsider.
“We have not adopted such draconian policies, but I am not fully aware of the situation that you have had to face here.” Greece’s economy crashed following the 2008 global financial crisis, which led to a currency crunch that set off riots across the country. In 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras formed the radical left-wing Syriza government, agreeing to a slew of austerity measures stipulated by the IMF and European creditors (ECB and the European Commission), including tax increases and expenditure cuts.
Mr. Katrougalos said the fact that Greece wiped out a quarter of its GDP during the Eurozone crisis meant it presented a “cheap” investment opportunity for Indian companies in infrastructure, energy, renewable energy and Information Technology. “Indian investors should choose Greece, also because we can act as a bridge between Asia and Europe and Africa. At all levels, we are much cheaper than in the past. For a country like India that is thinking globally, Greece is a really good place to do business,” said Mr. Katrougalos, who met Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar.
In a boost to India’s hopes for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he pledged Greece’s support as a member, but added that the process could take longer than what India had been pushing for. “There were discussions on this on November 11 [at the NSG meeting in Vienna]. It will be discussed in future, and I think India will succeed. It is a question of when and not if, but I cannot say it will happen this year,” Mr. Katrougalos said, adding that India’s “unblemished record” of non-proliferation must be recognised.