ECONOMY

OECD report calls for a stategic vision to uplift Athens

Athens will benefit from the huge investment sums for the Olympic Games but needs strategic planning if it is to reap further fruits from the potential presented by globalization and European Union enlargement, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says in a report. In its «Territorial Review of Athens Metropolitan Area,» the OECD says the Greek capital has excellent growth potential due to its position as an entry gate to Greece, the eastern flank of the enlarged EU and the Middle East. «However, the fulfillment of this role requires strategic answers on the part of the Greek government and the authorities of Athens and the wider Attica area to specific challenges,» says the report. The OECD urges the government to develop, as soon as possible, a strategic vision for the area that will integrate economic, social, environmental and territorial goals and policies. The report proposes that the government prepare a study on the best possible role that Athens can play in the European framework and, as part of this strategy, should create a regional organization for urban development, similar to that of London, and a regional observatory monitoring economic development. OECD notes that the competitiveness of the Attica area has improved due to Greece’s economic progress of recent years, its relatively low rate of inflation and a program of regulatory reforms that has liberalized many segments of the public sector. Preparations for the Olympic Games and European Union investment subsidies have boosted investment in the hotel sector, sports installations that operate throughout the year and a modern transportation network covering the entire area. The latter includes a brand-new airport, urban and ring roads that have decongested traffic, upgraded rail links, expansion of the metro system, environmentally friendly buses and a tram line. Furthermore, a cultural and architectural heritage protection program has transformed the center of the city, particularly the Acropolis area. Like Barcelona, Athens will soon be able to boast a reclaimed coastal area at Faliron, which will offer a large number of recreational and sports facilities. Generally, Athens is seen having a strong potential for growth in many sectors that can boost its cosmopolitan character. The report, nevertheless, notes that the capital still faces complex and inter-related problems. The population is aging, while parts of the conurbation suffer from inadequate housing conditions, environmental decline and lack of green areas.