Welcoming address / Introductory speech by George A. Provopoulos, Governor of the Bank of Greece, at the presentation of the publications History of the Bank of Greece 1928-2008 and The Chronicle of the great crisis – The Bank of Greece 2008-2013
11/06/2014 - Speeches
Today’s event is, first and foremost, a family gathering of the people of the Bank of Greece. I would like to welcome the members of staff, thanks to whom this establishment effectively fulfils – as I believe – its demanding mission. We also have here with us today former Governors and staff members who have helped this institution grow. Thank you for your presence and for the work carried out. Today we are releasing two publications: the History of the Bank of Greece 1928-2008, authored by Professor Michalis Psalidopoulos, and the Chronicle of the great crisis – The Bank of Greece 2008-2013, the result of a joint effort by our staff.
Why did we initiate the writing and publication of these studies?
The last extensive contribution to the history of this institution dates back to 1978, with the publication of The first fifty years of the Bank of Greece 1928-1978, a collective work of the Economic Research Department. We nevertheless saw a need for a new history, one that would provide a more systematic examination of the Bank’s first 80 years. This new history drew for the first time on archive material of the Bank of Greece (General Council decisions, Currency Committee records and personal archives of former Governors), combined with the Annual Reports of the Governor. I believe that the resulting narrative will provide a solid foundation for future monographs that will delve deeper into particular issues. In this respect, our newly-established Centre for Culture, Research and Documentation will seek to encourage further utilisation of our Historical Archives.
This book will be better presented by its author, and later discussed by Professor George Pagoulatos, who is well-versed in Greek banking history.
I will only restrict myself to four brief remarks:
First, there is much to be learned from the similarities and differences between the distant year 1928, when the Bank was established, and the present day. The same is also true of the various policies employed by the Bank to address day-to-day issues as well as major crises and impending disasters over the course of the 80 years up to 2008. One conclusion that can be drawn from the book is that these policies, different though they might have been, have all shared a common key orientation: the commitment to best serve the public interest, by securing and safeguarding monetary and financial stability, as fundamental conditions for fostering economic growth.
Second, the book highlights the seminal importance of the independence of the Bank of Greece, by recounting the evolution of its relationship with political power. Although this independence was formally guaranteed only in the last decade of the 80-year span covered by the book, the Bank has by and large enjoyed organisational autonomy from the very outset. This allowed it to be a public institution that operated efficiently and was capable of rapidly adapting to changing economic circumstances, always in the service of the public interest.
Third, one can clearly see in the course of these 80 years the independent critical stance that was, as a rule, adopted by the Bank; this initially reflected its organisational autonomy and subsequently its guaranteed independence, but in my view was mainly due to the strong leadership and the prestige of the Governors it was fortunate to have.
Fourth, the continuity of the Bank’s analyses, far from reflecting any obsessions on the part of the institution or its Governors, confirms as much the chronic nature of certain key weaknesses of the Greek economy, as the farsightedness of the Bank, which has addressed these weaknesses adopting a long-term perspective rather than on the basis of short-term, conjunctural considerations.
As for the Chronicle of the great crisis, I will present it in more detail later on during today’s event. We had invited Professor Gikas Hardouvelis to discuss it, also drawing on his rich personal experience. Unfortunately, owing to the new important duties assigned to him, he was unable to be with us here today; this is why he has kindly asked – as we also have requested – Professor George Pagoulatos to discuss this second book as well. I would like to thank Prof. Pagoulatos for agreeing to do so on such short notice.
The book we release today gives a detailed account of the public interventions and institutional actions of the Bank of Greece in the 2008-2013 period, in an environment which was rapidly changing and fluid because of the duration and severity of the crisis. Through these actions we have sought, on a more general level, to help overcome the crisis as soon as possible and, in particular, to safeguard financial stability and restructure the banking system. This book is not meant to “compete” with the recent Greek and foreign media narratives of what happened behind the scenes whilst decisions crucial to Greece were being made. Its aim is to provide a comprehensive account of the recent turbulent times for the economy and serve as a book of reference for researchers. Among other things, in this publication we have gathered detailed statistics – e.g. on the recourse of Greek banks to Eurosystem monetary policy operations and Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) from the Bank of Greece, on the evolution of deposits, on the circulation of euro banknotes and extraordinary cash shipments, on the fluctuations in purchases and sales of gold sovereigns – together with useful chronologies of economic developments in Greece and Europe, as well as of the decisions by EU institutional bodies that were of relevance to our country.
Finally, both books feature indexes and come with DVDs/CDs containing, in the case of the first book, all the Annual Governor’s Reports of the Bank for the years 1928-2008, and in the case of the second book, all Annual Governor’s Reports and Monetary Policy Reports for the years 2008-2013. We believe that the collection and digitisation of this material represents an important contribution to the study of modern Greek economic history.
Today’s presentation will be coordinated by the respected journalist and director of the newspaper “TO VIMA”, Mr. Antonis Karakoussis. I would like to thank him for the task he has undertaken, as I would also like to extend warm thanks to Professor George Pagoulatos, for accepting to discuss both books and share with us his personal experience. Last but not least, I wish to thank in particular our staff who, with dedication and a high sense of duty, have taken part in the making of the Bank’s history, firmly committed to serve the public interest.