ECONOMY

Christodoulakis assumes full responsibility for sell-offs

Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis will be, henceforth, solely responsible for the privatization program, government sources said yesterday. The Economy and Finance Ministry undertakes to represent the State’s holdings in all companies and will no longer need the assent of other ministries to proceed with sell-offs. A first sign was given yesterday when Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis announced that control over state-owned Postal Savings Bank would shift from his ministry to Christodoulakis’s. The news prompted an 11.52 percent rise in the shares of General Bank, touted as a possible partner in a merger with Postal Savings Bank. General Bank itself, originally controlled by the armed forces’ pension funds, is still under the minority control of the Ministry of Defense. Christodoulakis’s increased powers over public sector firms are expected to render the Privatization Commission, in which several ministers take part, moot. According to sources, it is likely that this decision will be formalized tomorrow, after Prime Minister Costas Simitis meets with Verelis and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. Simitis is placing great stock on an accelerated privatizations program to improve the business climate. It is said, but not confirmed, that this new role of the Economy and Finance Ministry may lead to changes in the management of several utilities. At least, their strategy will be reassessed. These increased powers are a double-edged sword for Christodoulakis, who will be solely responsible for any setbacks. He must act quickly; Simitis wants 80 percent of the planned privatizations under way, or completed, by the end of September.