ECONOMY

2003 outlay is biggest ever

More than a third of funds set aside for this year’s Public Investment Program will be used to finance projects related to the 2004 Olympic Games, the Finance Ministry said yesterday. Budgeted at 8.92 billion euros, this year’s Public Investment Program is the largest ever, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of gross domestic product. Olympic Games-related projects are estimated to cost 3.15 million euros. Greece is allocating two-thirds of the budget, or 5.77 million euros, to match structural funds allocated by the European Union for projects ranging from highways to air-traffic control to health. This year’s Public Investment Program will aim to speed up various projects, the ministry said, underlining on one hand the government’s determination to maximize the benefits of the third tranche of structural funds and on the other the realization that it is falling behind in deadlines for Games-related works. With the Games just a year and a half away, Greece is now racing against time to complete a range of projects that have been delayed by legal challenges and the government’s cost-cutting efforts. The latest setback came early this month when a tender to upgrade the country’s infrastructure system was unexpectedly canceled. «To avoid any delays in the implementation of Olympic Games projects, all relevant bodies must stick to the set procedures,» the ministry stressed. It said organizations, either in the public or private sector, that fail to live up to their obligations could be ordered to repay funds disbursed to them, with a newly established National Fiscal Correction System monitoring the process. Ministries and regional authorities have until March 3 to submit applications for funding from the Public Investment Program. Funds will be disbursed at the latest by December 12.