Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis announced yesterday in Parliament seven reforms that will be carried out during the first half of 2002. The reforms concern privatization, investments, taxes, market supervision, financing of infrastructure projects, incentives for new firms and social security reform. Christodoulakis was speaking during the debate on the 2002 budget, which will be concluded with a vote at midnight on Friday. Christodoulakis defended the main goals of his first budget – 3.8-percent growth, 2.5-percent average inflation, a surplus equal to 1.3 percent of GDP – as feasible and called on the opposition to abandon nihilistic criticism. We, the government, shouldn’t present a rosy picture of reality and you shouldn’t distort it in the opposite direction, he said. Christodoulakis also announced that the state lottery and soccer pools organization (OPAP) and the state horse racing organization would merge. With respect to the ailing state airline Olympic Airways, he said the government will soon implement a viable solution. The bills to be submitted by Christodoulakis next year would encourage further privatizations and company mergers and partnerships, especially with foreign firms, promote foreign investment, cut taxes, encourage more private investment for private infrastructure projects and create new regulatory offices overseeing the insurance sector and bank credit. Christodoulakis added that he would like to provide additional incentives for new companies, especially in the technology sector. Tsochadzopoulos said that PPC needed to link up to the energy networks in Eurasia as part of a strategy of making Greece the power hub for the region. It could even act as a power exchange for the area.