ECONOMY

Exporters call for immediate help

Faced with a 10-percent fall in exports in the first half of the year and with the trend expected to worsen as a result of the global slowdown, the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE) yesterday called on the government to act immediately to boost the sector. Greece was the worst performer in the EU in the first half of the year as exports in the period declined by 10 percent to 5.3 billion euros from 5.9 billion euros in the same period in 2000, based on provisional figures from Eurostat [the EU’s Brussels-based statistical office], PSE president Christina Sakellaridi told a press conference. Statistics from the National Statistics Service supported the findings, with dollar-denominated exports down by 2.6 percent. Sakellaridi said the situation is expected to deteriorate in view of the global slowdown which in turn is expected to lead to reduced demand for Greek products. This is especially true for the European market, where three quarters of Greek exports go, she said. The fact that Greek products, in particular service industries, do not constitute essential items is also a handicap. The PSE head urged that a medium-term export policy be implemented at once. Immediate measures should include channeling EU structural funds to promote products and services most affected by the current crisis, implementing the National Program for the Reconstruction of the Balkans, cutting corporate taxes and speeding up infrastructure works. A medium-term strategy should aim to improve the country’s competitiveness and should encompass steps which include resolving structural weaknesses, developing the export industry and modernizing the export framework. In the meantime, the export sector is expected to benefit from the introduction of the euro next year, especially through lower foreign exchange costs. Declining interest rates have also cut financing costs for exporters, while the Development Ministry’s launch of the Society of Information program this year should make it easier for companies to raise capital. The net result is that it is not clear that we will see a significant acceleration of structural reforms, the SSSB consultant said.