ECONOMY

SEV head urges more active state role to help businesses

The head of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday urged the government to play its part in creating an environment which will assist companies and at the same time enhance their competitiveness. Addressing a conference on the Greek economy, SEV head Lefteris Antonakopoulos said that local companies are more than able to deal with the challenges of a single currency zone but that state contribution is vital in leveling the playing field. The government has a major responsibility in implementing structural reforms rapidly and decisively which will create a friendlier environment for businesses, he said, noting that measures could include simplifying procedures, cutting tax burdens, improving market flexibility, making better use of state investment spending and reforming vocational training. Antonakopoulos said improvements in these areas could strengthen competitiveness and simultaneously help attract foreign investment. The latter is especially important as it could enhance Greece’s economic growth and would lead to a transfer of technology and expertise to local companies. He said the threat to Greek companies comes as much from countries with low costs as countries with a high productivity rate and well-known for their innovations. The SEV head also suggested that both businesses and the State look into multiple forms of cooperation, either between themselves or among themselves, in a move which could cushion them against future crises. In the meantime, local companies are fully prepared to handle the challenges arising from the launch of the euro on January 1, 2002 and globalization. Antonakopoulos pointed to the decade-long investment drive that Greek companies embarked on in the 1990s, a move which he said has equipped the sector with the ability and capability to counter competition from abroad. Investment spending in production equipment last year in terms of rate of growth was the highest in Europe. Prospects for this year and 2002 are very positive, he predicted. Christodoulakis took pains to dispel the myth, as he called it, that Greece’s growth is purely driven by generous EU funds. CSF III, he said, contributed 1.1 to 1.2 percent to our growth; the Public Investment Program contributes as much; and the rest is domestic-driven, on a par with the other eurozone economies.