Greece will leave the bailout program within two years, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said at the opening of an annual trade fair late Saturday. As thousands protested against the government's austerity policies, Tsipras opened the fair in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, by outlining a five-step plan that would see Greece "permanently exiting the program as we will have been able to obtain stable and sustainable growth."In televised comments, Tsipras said a second evaluation of the country's bailout program would end soon to be followed with a final decision on debt relief that would allow Greece to rejoin the European Central Bank's bond repurchase program.
The Greek economy will have to record high growth rates in 2017 in order for Tsipras to reach his goal. Looking back on the recession that wracked Greece, Tsipras said that over five years "a quarter of our national wealth was destroyed, disposable income fell by 40 percent, unemployment climbed to 28 percent and the level of poverty rose to 38 percent." He said the economy was starting to shift. "After seven years of recession we switch to growth," he said. "Today, more than ever, it is necessary to envision and design a Greece that will leave behind the disastrous mistakes of the past. "In 2015 we committed to have a target of -0.25 percent and managed to close at 0.7 percent, in 2016 we will continue to outperform."
Finally, referring to the distribution of 246 million euros ($276 million) from the auction of broadcasting licenses, Tsipras pledged to use it to expand the humanitarian crisis program. "I promise that every last euro of this money will go to extraordinary measures to support vulnerable groups and the society that need it," he said.