ECONOMY

Measures to boost competitiveness

The Convergence Charter presented by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday contains a special chapter on boosting entrepreneurship and otherwise helping business competitiveness. The chapter essentially repeats promises made over the previous years and which had yet to be implemented, but also sets some specific targets. For example, the government promises to make it easier to set up businesses by cutting the red tape and reducing costs and the time required to process all applications to around one-third of today’s levels. It will also make it easier to liquidate an enterprise and change the procedures on bankruptcy by allowing restructuring and protection from creditors in a manner similar to the Chapter 11 procedure followed in the United States, without further penalizing the bankrupt businesses. Simitis also repeated previous announcements concerning the operation of investor reception centers in each prefecture and aid to small and medium-sized enterprises through a special guarantee fund. He added that investment subsidies provided through EU programs and the State would reach 6 billion euros over the next five years. All these measures intend to show the government’s concern for enterprises active outside the Attica region. The charter also promises more privatization and market deregulation. Revenue from privatizations will reach 1-2 percent of the country’s GDP annually over the next five years and it will be used in its entirety to reduce the country’s public debt. Simitis also promised to open up at least 20 percent of the fixed telephony sector to OTE’s competitors, adding that this would bring in tariffs below the EU average. He added that, by 2008, 10 percent of electricity would be produced by private firms. A more ambitious goal is to raise exports by three percentage points of GDP over the next five years.