Industrialists want more sell-offs

Greek industrialists yesterday urged the government to stop looking at the state privatization program as a cash cow, but instead to focus on actually transferring state-controlled companies along with management rights to the private sector. The government’s sell-off strategy is focused on raising cash while ignoring the essence of privatization, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, chairman of the Federation of Greek Industrialists (SEV), told a press conference. He said that privatization should mean the transfer of management rights to the private sector and a greater emphasis on the business plan submitted by bidders, with the ultimate objective of enhancing companies’ competitiveness. The SEV head also slammed the government’s practice of selling minor stakes in state-owned companies to the private sector, a strategy necessitated by political constraints and unfavorable market conditions. He said the method represents a piecemeal approach to the concept of privatization, with the private sector unable to play a role in managing the companies. One prime example of this misplaced focus is the State’s decision to offload a 15-percent equity stake in electricity utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) while keeping management rights. How can we say that the sale of 15 percent of PPC is in line with privatization? How do you set out management rights? Kyriakopoulos argued. PPC is due to be floated on the Athens Stock Exchange on December 12, ending a two-year-long delay brought on by its restructuring and the turmoil in global markets. The government said it would offload a 15-percent stake in the first stage with other tranches of sales to be sold in subsequent stages, repeating a tactic employed for other state-owned companies such as telecoms operator OTE and oil company Hellenic Petroleum. SEV Vice President Nikos Analytis also questioned the effectiveness of newly enacted legislation on overtime work. He said that initial estimates showed that labor costs had gone up, while employers and employees were circumventing the regulation. Furthermore, recent official statistics pointing to a fall in the jobless rate probably had more to do with the decline in the number of jobs on offer rather than the unemployed finding work.

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