Finance Ministry to transfer powers to Capital Market Commission and bourse

With the stock market at a six-year low, the government is preparing to table a draft bill with provisions that should have really been in place before the crash that brought misery to thousands of small investors, sources say. The bill provides for the setting up of private stock exchanges and the election of the board of directors of Hellenic Exchanges, the holding company that owns the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), in the same way as in other societes anonymes. Further, a host of responsibilities now exercised by the Finance Ministry are to be transferred to the Capital Market Commission (CMC) and the ASE. The prospectuses of firms applying for listing will be considered by the ASE, which will then recommend their acceptance or rejection to the CMC, which will have the final word. A necessary condition for approval of a prospectus will be that the firm has been inspected and found to be without tax arrears for all fiscal years that ended at least 10 months before. Ministers consider the bill will help the bourse to function better and recover lost credibility. Earlier this week, comments on the crash of the bourse by Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis caused a strong reaction from opposition deputies present. Speaking at a gathering sponsored by the London Business School, Christodoulakis said the government was just about the only one not to blame for the fall from the highs of more than 6,300 points in September 1999 to the region of 1,600 today, laying most of the responsibility on the entrepreneurs themselves. He spoke of excesses and frivolities which only became evident much later on. «Such behavior casts a shadow of suspicion on entrepreneurship and undermines the country’s growth prospects,» Christodoulakis said. Reacting, main opposition New Democracy party’s economic affairs spokesman Giorgos Alogoskoufis likened Christodoulakis to a killer returning to the scene of the crime. «The government’s responsibilities for the scandal of the stock market are indisputable and it is an unpleasant surprise that it is trying to roll them over onto business,» he said. Responding during a SKAI radio interview, former ND leader Miltiades Evert said: «Did Christodoulakis need three years to find out about the crime committed in the bourse? Yet he did not dare reveal under the toleration of which ministers and state officials this situation emerged.» He called on Christodoulakis to name those he described as «selfish, nouveau riche and embezzlers.»