Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Greece, Dijsselbloem and Focco Vijselaar (and Plutarchos Sakellaris)

The first time I had a conversation at the Dutch Ministry of Finance with its Director of Foreign Financial Relations, being Pieter Stek at the time (when was it, in 1978?), I carefully listened to what he said and how he said it. Basically, he said that the ministry did not want to have any political interference from outside. He argued strongly that it would be bad to give in to political pressure from outside as he and his colleagues had to protect rational and sound policymaking.

Later, I met other high officials of the Dutch Ministry of Finance including its ministers and those who followed Pieter Stek as Director of Foreign Financial Relations. Some of them, including then Minister of Finance Wim Kok, participated in FONDAD Conferences, and some of these conferences were cosponsored by the Ministry of Finance and by the Dutch central bank.

I have nice memories of the support I received from a man who started his career at the Dutch Ministry of Finance, to become later during many years the head of the OECD, Emile van Lennep. and ended his career still working hard till his death as a Minister of State. I also enjoyed the support from another Dutch minister of finance, the only one who ever made it to the top of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen. Both Witteveen and Van Lennep became members of the Dutch Advisory Group of FONDAD.

Focco Vijselaar
Turning to Greece and the current Director of Foreign Financial Relations, Focco Vijselaar, it is interesting to know what his view on the "Greek problem" is.

Times have changed since I had that conversation in the 1970s with Pieter Stek and so you can read now publicly what Focco Vijselaar thinks about Greece, at least what he thought about it some time ago when he was interviewed about the Greek problem. Unfortunately, that interview is in Dutch. However, I could ask him if he has written anything (in English) about Greece that he may want to share with us.

Since I stressed in a previous post that it would be important for the Greek government to have a constructive dialogue with Jeroen Dijsselbleom and his team, I glimpsed on the internet if there were any Greeks having good relations with Dijselbloem and/or Focco Vijselaar.

Obviously, there are several Greek economists who not only have had a constructive dialogue but also have shared views and even coauthored studies with high Dutch financial officials. One of them is Plutarchos Sakellaris, who coauthored with Focco Vijselaar "Capital Quality Improvement and the Sources of Economic Growth in the Euro Area".

Given Greece's lack of growth, that seems an important topic.. And Sakellaris' current position at the European Investment Bank might be useful as well... Another question is whether the Greek government is making use of or wants to make use of Sakellaris in negotiating with Dijsselbloem and his team.

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