ECONOMY

PASOK candidate says he will promote decentralization and entrepreneurship

On the economic front, PASOK President and prime-ministerial candidate George Papandreou promises to combine high economic growth with fiscal stability, essentially continuing the policies of his predecessor Costas Simitis. Defending himself against the charge of vagueness, he lays out some specific measures he will take. You refer to «participatory democracy» in the economy. Is that model appropriate for the complex problems facing the Greek economy? The complex problems of the economy call for a complex solution. They require fiscal stability and, at the same time, strong growth. Participatory democracy will be one of the driving forces for growth. At the same time, it will improve social cohesion which will in turn boost our growth potential. The major issue here is the liberation of dormant productive forces. Participatory democracy is aimed at giving people the opportunity to be proactive. To take initiatives and demand that the State provide the resources and institutional support so that they can find their own solutions, rather than providing them with ready-made solutions. Participation in the establishment of an institutional framework for social responsibility on the part of businesses will improve their economic efficiency. Public-private partnerships (PPP) will put private capital at the service of national and regional development. Participatory democracy cannot exist without regional development and decentralization. Increasing the number of places where crucial decisions on development are taken and spreading them out over the country will liberate the economy. PASOK’s program refers rather vaguely to structural changes in the economy. What are the first economic policy measures you plan to take? A set of specific structural interventions related to the economy, entrepreneurship and employment have been mentioned both in the PASOK platform and in my own speeches. Subsidizing the employment of young people, for example, in the framework of moves I have already announced [such as exempting employers from paying new employees’ social security contributions for four years], will contribute to a drastic reduction in unemployment. In addition, we will immediately implement a bunch of priority measures to support high growth rates: Concerning entrepreneurship, we will further simplify and consolidate laws on business taxation and gradually reduce tax rates, so as to standardize auditing of businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, and to provide the taxpayer with a stable framework, free of uncertainty. We will also simplify the system of licensing new businesses by further reducing the number of permits required. We will turn the Hellenic Center for Investment (ELKE) into a real «one-stop shop» in order to facilitate foreign investors, at the same time exploiting the legacy of the Olympic Games in promoting Greece as an investment destination. We are entering a new age, where there are no more self-sufficient markets. In this age, the new production factors are communications and information. Incorporating them into every business, large or small, is the only way to increase competitiveness. That is why our immediate priority is the full development of broadband networks to facilitate businesses’ access to databases at a low cost, in order to spread the benefits of information, particularly in he provinces. I will bring forward the bids for broadband networks with the aim of setting up the infrastructure in 50 major towns by 2006. We are planning to pass a law on establishing a new partnership between the public and state sectors, aimed at setting up and funding infrastructure projects. We will thereby reduce both the investment and operational costs. We will also be emphasizing privatizations and strategic alliances, such as the one between the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) with Spain’s Gas Natural, the immediate sale of Olympic Airlines with the guarantee of job security, and the expansion of the strategic alliance between Emporiki Bank and Credit Agricole. All of this of course requires a stable legal framework, compatible with developments in the European Union, and here we have considerable experience. As for the supervisory-regulatory framework for the operation of markets, businesses and banks, our immediate priority will be to quickly make the decisions required for a smooth implementation of the International Accounting Standards (IAS) and the new rules concerning bank oversight. Another priority is the upgrading of independent regulatory bodies, such as the Competition Commission, the Capital Market Commission, the Insurance Firms Supervisory Body, by providing additional resources and implementing new legislation. This is all part of the effort to promote competition and transparency in the way markets operate as well as across-the-board supervision.