Industry asks for gov’t intervention

SEV calls for cautious settlement of bad loans and for measures to reduce corporate natural gas rates By Chryssa Liaggou and Dimitra Manifava

Greek industrialists requested on Tuesday a settlement of bad corporate loans to avoid moral hazard and create an environment of fair competition, during a meeting between leaders of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the inner cabinet.

SEV sources said the meeting with the prime minister and the ministers of Finance, Development, Labor, Environment and the State was “productive.” They quoted Prime Minister Antonis Samaras as saying that supporting industry is absolutely essential: “We fervently support entrepreneurship. There is no other way,” Samaras was quoted as saying.

“The terms and methods through which non-performing loans will be managed are particularly crucial, as they will form the profile and the prospects of the Greek economy for the coming decades,” SEV President Theodoros Fessas reportedly said during the meeting.

“Our first aim is to avoid what we call moral hazard – averting the possibility of firms avoiding loan repayments on purpose – and the second is to avoid unfair competition whereby law-abiding companies that pay their taxes and [social security] contributions lose in competitiveness against those enterprises that do not behave properly,” Fessas said at the end of the meeting.

The ministries of Development and Finance are set to present their plan for the arrangement of bad loans after the August 15 national holiday.

SEV also plans to submit a series of specific proposals for the reduction of energy costs for energy-intensive industries at a meeting of the ministerial committee headed by Development Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday.

Industrialists will show figures revealing that natural gas prices – despite a 15 percent discount recently granted to Greece by Russian supplier Gazprom – remain 30 percent higher than the rates paid by rivals in other European Union countries.

The measures SEV intends to propose include pegging gas supply rates to spot prices in European markets, returning part of the profits of Public Gas Corporation to industries, reducing the special consumption tax on natural gas by industries to the lowest level in the EU and offsetting carbon dioxide emission costs.