ECONOMY

Government chided by businessmen

Yesterday’s second and final day of the 12th annual congress on the Greek economy, organized by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, was notable for the criticism directed at the government by two prominent businessmen, Dimitris Kopelouzos and Evangelos Mytilineos, each for their own reasons. Kopelouzos, a former MP for conservative opposition New Democracy, and head of a group of companies active in the energy sector, accused the government of making certain the so-called opening-up of the sector would favor the former state monopoly, the Public Power Corporation. Mytilineos, head of a holding company active in mining and metal products manufacturing, with considerable activity abroad, said the government was ineffectual in advising Greek investors abroad and proposed a National Council for Foreign Economic Policy, in which state officials and businessmen would participate. Kopelouzos, who has also been instrumental in the provision of Russian natural gas to Greece, via a company, Prometheus Gas, set up jointly with a subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom, said that, although the energy sector has been deregulated since February 2001, little has been done to implement this deregulation. Kopelouzos said PPC was heavily subsidized by the State and its accounts lacked the sort of transparency that would allow the market to determine PPC’s actual operating cost. Private (electricity) producers are being called upon to make costly investments and participate in a competitive market, when the market’s main player has not even spelled out its pricing policy and operates with a slew of subsidized clients, he said. Kopelouzos also called for a stronger Energy Regulatory Authority, with real powers, and independent of the state machinery. If the government does not solve the energy sector’s problems, we may face a situation similar to that of California’s, with a combination of overpriced services, a badly tended distribution network and power outages. Mytilineos, on his part, said things had changed for the better since he first ventured into the Balkan markets 20 years ago. He added, however, that the Greek State was not doing enough to help current and potential Greek investors. The State ignores the problems the Greek industry faces in order to establish themselves in foreign markets, and the enterprises themselves ignore the subtleties of bilateral state relations. No, we certainly do not know all the species or their populations. For example, scientists are still exploring the depths of the oceans for new species of marine organisms. In addition, many microorganisms living in the soil remain unexplored for their potential to produce leads for new medicines because they have not been found yet, or if they have, they cannot be cultured in the laboratory. The same situation is likely to be true for plants.