The head of the Athens Water and Sewage Company (EYDAP) said on Wednesday that water rates may be set to drop as he considers them to be too high. He avoided taking a clear position regarding the utility’s privatization, saying that his role is that of a manager, but he did stress his vehement opposition to further salary cuts for EYDAP employees and price hikes for water.
In the first formal meeting between an EYDAP chief and the press in a long time, chairman and chief executive Stelios Stavridis applauded the social role of the utility and the quality of its staff, while scolding local authorities around the country for hiring consultants on water issues instead of tapping into the experience of the company for free.
Questioned about the utility’s planned privatization, Stavridis responded, “I do not sell the company, I run it, and it is very important ahead of its privatization that it maintains its high level of service.” However, the 2,500 EYDAP employees have a different view, as they have positioned themselves against the utility’s sell-off and have threatened “war” if such a move is implemented. Stavridis himself appeared somewhat reserved, saying that he considers EYDAP priceless: “Attractive assets come at a high price. They are not sold on the cheap.”
On the company’s price policy, he categorically ruled out any hikes: “Whoever starts such a conversation in Greece is either oblivious of his surroundings or is doing it on purpose,” he stated. He added that water is currently overpriced and said he may propose a reduction in rates as well as the abolition of various consumer charges that he deems to be unnecessary, such as the charge for possible leaks. He noted that his proposals on the rationalization of water bills would be ready in a couple of months.
The public sector is known to owe hundreds of millions of euros to the company in unpaid bills and subsidies. Stavridis told reporters that the state owes EYDAP about 523 million euros (after failing to pay the subsidies for the utility’s investment program in the 2000-08 period), local authorities owe 340 million euros in unpaid bills, while the debts of ministries and other state corporations add up to 32 million euros. Major enterprises have run up debts of 17 million euros in total.
The EYDAP chief added that the company cuts the supply to 22,000 customers every year due to debts, with about 6,000 of those not getting reconnected. Cases of leaks in domestic water networks amount to 90,000 per year, which burdens consumers with an average charge of 100 euros per annum.