Investments become government's key goal

PM prepares for China trip as Stournaras says much work still to do despite IMF’s adjustment praise

Preferring to focus on the possibility of attracting further foreign investment in Greece, the government on Tuesday played down the significance of the latest International Monetary Fund report on the consolidation program, which continued to provide a source of criticism for main opposition party SYRIZA.

“We have a long road ahead of us,” said Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras when questioned about the report, which praised Greece’s efforts in terms of fiscal adjustment but stressed the need for quicker and deeper changes in tax collection and public administration.

“Things are going well, according to plan, but we have a long distance to cover,” added Stournaras, who had met on Tuesday with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The premier and his aides felt the IMF report was justification of the course the coalition has followed over the last 10 months but want to underline that there is a changing mood by attracting investment to Greece.

The government was buoyed by the news on Tuesday that German company Hochtief had sold its 26.7 percent stake in the management of Athens International Airport to a Canadian pension fund. Samaras is also keen to come back with trade agreements from China when he visits for five days later this month.

The prime minister stepped up preparations for his trip on Tuesday, when he met with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis. It is expected that as many as 60 Greek businessmen as well as representatives of the state privatization fund, TAIPED, will accompany Samaras on his visit between May 15 and 19. It is expected that the government will invite representatives of some of Greece’s top companies, particularly in the shipping and tourism sectors, to join the prime minister later this month. During the visit, there will be a business forum, where there will be the opportunity for entrepreneurs from both sides to have direct talks.

SYRIZA, however, insisted that the government had no right to feel the IMF report had justified its policies. The leftists pointed out that the IMF made no mention of its error regarding the recessionary impact of austerity polices, or the fiscal multiplier, while the Fund also admitted that Greece would need further debt relief in the future as the program had led to a rise in public debt, rather than a reduction.