ECONOMY

Little done to secure EU funds for high-tech projects

Absorption of EU funds for the ambitious «Information Society» program has been disappointing, despite efforts to accelerate it. The funds are available through the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII), which runs from 2000 to 2006. Including complementary state and private sector funds, CSFIII will fund projects worth a total of over 51 billion euros, in a number of sectors. Greece has managed to get 25 big projects approved in the Information Society part of CSFIII, worth a total of 646 million euros. However, contracts for just 10 of them (worth 211 million euros) have been signed and 75 million euros have been spent so far. An attempt, early this year, by the Economy and Finance Ministry to kick-start the program under a so-called «emergency program» has not produced the expected results so far because of the unwillingness, or inability, of certain state and local authority bodies to push the projects forward. Such organizations include the Manpower Organization (OAED) and the General Secretariat for Research and Development, part of the Development Ministry, which have undertaken several important projects but so far have not managed to secure a single euro in EU funding. In the case of OAED, the organization proposed, in the middle of 2002, a program to train jobless people in the use of new technologies, worth 30 million euros. So far, it has failed to present the program, which remains locked in some official’s drawer. Of two other projects, worth 18.8 million euros, a contract for part of one has been signed, worth 2.27 million, and no EU funds have been forthcoming yet. In the case of the General Secretariat of Research and Development, it has drawn up three projects, worth 57.5 million euros. No contracts have been signed and, naturally, no aid has been received. The General Secretariat for Industry, also at the Development Ministry, has done slightly better. It has included two projects, worth 88.17 million euros, in the Information Society program, and has so far spent 20.90 million on them. The Organization for the Promotion of Greek Culture, which has devised 19 projects, worth a total of 23 million euros, has not spent a single cent. Things are somewhat better at the Interior Ministry, which has submitted five projects worth 72.8 million euros. Contracts involving a total budget of 63 million euros have been signed but, so far, only 9.55 million has been spent. To help speed things up, the Economy and Finance and Interior ministries have jointly set up Information Society SA (IS), a company that provides know-how to other public organizations, especially those unable to design information technology programs themselves, due to a lack of specialized personnel. Until now, IS has undertaken to implement 23 projects with a total budget of 175.7 million euros. Most of these projects were undertaken only very recently, as several state bodies were reluctant to turn them over to IS even though they had proven unable to manage them successfully themselves. These problems are not unique to the Information Society program but reflect problems with all of CSFIII funding. So far, Greece has secured only 16 percent of the program’s total funds. Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, who is in charge of Greece’s CSFIII programs insists that this absorption rate will be almost doubled by year’s end.