Olympics: The day after

It is a myth that European Union investment subsidies and the Olympic Games are the main factors propelling Greece’s high growth, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. Speaking at a PricewaterhouseCoopers conference titled «Olympic Games 2004: The Day After,» he said, «The contribution of Olympic projects to Greece’s growth rate, which is about 4 percent, is just one tenth» and added that a reduction in EU inflows will have a minimal effect. On the contrary, he predicted growth rates will intensify after 2004, with emphasis on regional projects and a more permanent impact on employment levels. «The country will have acquired know-how in large projects and the organization of big events, after gaining huge promotional benefits from the Games in terms of tourism, foreign investment and exports,» Christodoulakis said. The main opposition New Democracy party’s economic affairs spokesman Giorgos Alogoskoufis said that for the high growth rates to be maintained extensive changes are needed in developing the tourism industry, in merchant shipping and in the sectors of energy, transport and telecommunications, which are facing serious obstacles and are in need of effective deregulation. Further, he said the two great impediments to investment were the tax system and bureaucracy. Trade union leader Christos Polyzogopoulos said high growth rates will continue for the rest of the decade at levels much higher than the European Union average. He rejected suggestions that Greek wage costs were in need of trimming, claiming that they have already fallen by 30 percent since 1981. Federation of Greek Industries Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos said the high growth rates have not reduced unemployment and said more efforts are needed to improve education and vocational training.