ECONOMY

Foot-dragging delayed sell-offs

The state seemed to have been in no hurry to move ahead with privatizations this year up to the twin elections in May and June, according to the list of 77 pending privatization issues submitted by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) to the prime minister and the other coalition party leaders on Wednesday.

The list of outstanding issues includes 77 regulations that have to be passed to remove obstacles for the implementation of privatizations. The legislation adjustments range from the compulsory participation of employees in the administration of state companies to laws that lift public company commitments resulting from their being awarded state subsidies.

Crucially, out of the 77 pending issues, there are 44 that should have been settled by June, according to the timetable the previous government had agreed with the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund known as the troika. The other 33 issues will have to be settled by the end of the year.

Those issues concern the 28 privatization projects for which preliminary work has already been conducted and which can move ahead in a bid to bring in some much-needed revenues by the end of 2012, such as the operation of the state lotteries and the sale of the International Broadcasting Center (IBC).

The state lotteries are seen to be the most mature sell-off project, but will still require the creation of state lottery permits and the approval of their regulation. The permit conceded to a private investor will have to be approved by Parliament. The IBC, which currently houses the Golden Hall shopping center, requires an amendment to a law dating from 2005 to provide for usage such as entertainment etc. In both cases, it was the Finance Ministry (and still is) that should have dealt with those matters.

There are also a great number of other issues, some of them particularly thorny, such as the hoped-for clearance by the Commission regarding past state subsidies to companies that are to go under the hammer (Public Power Corporation, port authorities, casinos, OPAP etc).