ECONOMY

OLP clash threatens sell-off

olp-clash-threatens-sell-off

The Merchant Marine Ministry and state sell-off fund TAIPED are at odds over the privatization of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) in what is turning into a clash between Minister Theodoros Dritsas, who says the sale to Cosco is an absolute mistake, and fund president Stergios Pitsiorlas, who deems that the concession opens new horizons for the country.

Their latest clash, which is threatening the state’s cooperation with preferred bidder Cosco, started after statements by Dritsas that the TAIPED-Cosco deal “still has some way to go,” suggesting that there are uncertainties and it may not be completed.

Market professionals speak of Dritsas’s unacceptable attitude toward what is a beneficial agreement for the state that was reached after a long and arduous process. The agreement is concrete and is only awaiting the final approval of the competent regulators, these being the Court of Auditors, the Competition Commission and the Parliament.

Pitsiorlas responded publicly to Dritsas’s statements on Tuesday, saying they were “of secondary importance.” He said: “I will not comment on the minister’s statements. I think this is of secondary importance and what matters now is that we have a very big development. Obviously such a great decision would certainly cause some opposition.”

While most of the media marked Pitsiorlas’s words as belittling Dritsas’s statements, TAIPED sources said that Pitsiorlas was referring to being asked to comment on what the minister said as of little importance.

Dritsas has made it his sole objective at the ministry to stop the privatization of OLP, in which a 67 percent stake will be sold to Cosco.

What the minister should have done, along with the members of the OLP board, was to prepare the regulatory framework for the operation of the privatized OLP.

The absence of a public regulatory authority for ports to oversee public services in Piraeus constitutes a major uncertainty in the completion of the privatization for which Dritsas is solely accountable as he has failed to present any plans to date.