Bank of Greece chief George Provopoulos, who has predicted an economic recovery for the past few years, now says it looks like it’s really going to happen and he’d like to keep his job for a second term.
“The prospect of Greece exiting the crisis is by now visible,” he said at a lunch organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce in his honor, the Athens News Agency reported.
In 2012, Reuters reported that he was given a severance payment of 3.4 million euros ($4.63 million) when he left his former employer, Piraeus Bank, which he now regulates.
Provopoulos now says it couldn’t be predicted that Greece would make a comeback although he has often said it would because unrelenting austerity measures had managed to avoid bankruptcy and a Eurozone exit at the same time they have created record unemployment and deep poverty.
“Finally, the disaster was averted with the will of the Greek people, the efforts of successive governments and the support of (European) partners,” he said, without mentioning nearly four years of protests, strikes and riots.
He said the Bank of Greece had led the way and lauded his own tenure for protecting financial stability although there have been a number of bank scandals and the institutions needed nearly 50 billion euros recapitalization because of big holdings in Greek bonds that were devalued by the government’s bid to write down its 310 billion euro ($430 billion) debt.
During this course, the Bank of Greece exercised its institutional duties, protecting financial stability and deposits. “Thus, it (Bank of Greece) averted an open banking crisis, while the banking system was restructured on new foundations,” he said, praising his work.
With the government predicting a primary surplus of up to 2.5 billion euros and an 8.3 billion euro installment coming from its international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), he said what needs to be done now is to find some way to make the economy grow and continue to downsize and reform the public sector.
He also said banks now have to start lending to help kick start growth and not to direct too much capital to housing and consumption.
The central banker underlined, that the Greek banking system now has extended capabilities, being able to attract foreign capital, paving the way also for the re-emergence of the Greek state in the international financial markets.
He also jumped on the chance to say he’d accept a second term at the helm of the Bank of Greece if the government offered it to him when his current one expires in June. The decision is up to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whom he has lavishly lauded.
Provopoulos, who oversaw the recapitalization of Greece’s banking system under the terms of the country’s international bailout, also said he expected its third-biggest lender Eurobank , to raise from private investors all the funds it needs to plug a capital gap.
“I am optimistic that it (Eurobank) will raise all the money it needs from capital markets,” Provopoulos said.
Eurobank is planning a capital increase of up to 3 billion euros ($4.2 billion). If it fails to do that, it will have to tap Greece’s bank bailout fund HFSF which is funded by the Troika.
His leadership has drawn the anger of terrorist groups who blame him for being what they call a collaborator in overseeing pay cut, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings the past four years.
In January, bullets in envelopes were mailed to him and Mega TV presenter Yiannis Pretenderis amid new fears of violence and political unrest in the country.
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