ECONOMY

Private sector called on to play bigger role in EU funds

Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas yesterday called on the private sector to play a bigger role in executing major infrastructure projects funded by European Union structural funds and others planned for the 2004 Olympic Games. We need to attract at least 3.5 trillion drachmas from the private sector by 2006 for financing infrastructure works backed by the Third Community Support Framework (CSF III), he said at a conference on major construction works. Pachtas said the projected figure is part of the 8.5 trillion drachmas that the State needs to raise from its own coffers and the private sector to match the 9 trillion drachmas coming from Brussels. The government’s push for build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects, also known as turnkey projects, came in the wake of the successful construction of the new airport at Spata by German construction group Hochtief, the first major undertaking by the private sector. The public-private partnership is also behind the ongoing construction of the Attiki Odos, the highway that is intended to link eastern Attica with the western region, and the Rio-Antirio bridge connecting the Peloponnese with the mainland. Such projects are models of quality and functionability, without cost overruns or delays, Pachtas said. He said the private input will also help save state resources. The deputy minister’s appeal to the private sector is in line with the government’s new determination to disengage itself from business dealings. Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis stressed that the State would be more effective in a social and regulatory role rather than an entrepreneurial capacity. Pactas said the State would intensify efforts to broaden BOT projects, including calling on foreign investors. Private sector input is considered critical in view of six major road projects due to be launched countrywide. The deputy minister said the response to the schemes has been very encouraging, with 38 consortia encompassing more than 100 companies from more than 14 countries participating. He said the state plans to streamline the legal, technical and financial framework to facilitate turnkey projects, replacing the currently ad hoc arrangements. In closing, the deputy minister urged construction companies to consolidate or contract alliances that would enable them to counter competition. He said the public investment program continues to be plagued by late payments of EU structural funds due to the changes in procedures relating to EU-backed projects.