ECONOMY

SEV praises merger move

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday applauded the new direction that both the State and the two biggest banks in the country are heading. SEV President Lefteris Antonakopoulos said the Greek economy is entering a new dynamic phase, characterized by newly appointed Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis’s determination to get things moving and the proposed merger between National Bank and Alpha Bank. He said the developments in both the public and private sectors would help boost competitiveness. Following his appointment to the top post at the now-merged Economy and Finance Ministry last week, Christodoulakis has promised to accelerate a series of measures, among them completing the State’s divestment program, simplifying procedures, deregulating markets and reforming the taxation system. He said the State intends to disengage itself from the business sector, leaving business to the experts, namely, the entrepreneurs themselves. The decision to speed up the pace of changes could not have come at a better time, Antonakopoulos said. We need to make up lost ground and lost time, he stressed. The minister’s emphasis on accelerating structural reforms and his acknowledgement of the urgency is a positive development. Underlining the new climate of trust, Christodoulakis has promised to meet industrialists on a monthly basis. Antonakopoulos also expressed optimism over social security reform talks. He said the new labor minister, Dimitris Reppas, appears to have realized the size of the problem and seems to be more open to suggestions. He said that all participating parties seem to have reached accord on slightly more than half of the issues. On the proposed merger between National and Alpha banks, Antonakopoulos said the move could have a domino effect, with other banks and other sectors following suit. Other European countries have already seen a wave of consolidation and benefited from the integrations. He said the State could play a vital role in encouraging companies to merge by setting up the legislative framework. The SEV head also pointed to the benefits expected to come from the integrated bank, ranked 21st among European banks in terms of assets. The merged entity will be able to offer better products and services. It will be more equipped to expand into bigger markets and compete with European counterparts, he said. While job losses are only expected in the short-term, in the long-term more jobs are expected to be created as the enlarged bank moves into new areas.