Ministers call on businesses for investment initiatives

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas pledged yesterday to help the economy become more competitive and called on businesspeople to take initiatives in order to help realize this aim. Speaking at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), Alogoskoufis said that past mistakes had led Greece’s economy to lose ground in a period of intensifying global competition and said that the government would make significant reforms to «lift obstacles to business activity.» He added that incentives will be provided for research and development of new products and for improving the quality of the existing ones. Alogoskoufis then enumerated the measures the government has taken or will soon take: – Company founding procedures will be streamlined, the law on bankruptcies simplified and accumulated debts settled. – It has been decided to more speedily return VAT to exporting companies. – A complete tax reform will be undertaken, reducing taxes and eliminating counterincentives. – A new development law will provide investment incentives. – Efforts are being made for a more effective absorption of European Union funds provided through the Third Common Support Framework program (CSFIII). – The National Council on Exports has been reactivated. – The government is preparing more privatizations. – A program to develop public property is being prepared. – Greater transparency will be introduced in stock market operations. – Improvements will be made in the management of state bodies and public firms. «The biggest problem we face… is lack of trust on the part of investors and the citizens on decisions announced by the government and a lack of belief in whether these decisions will be properly applied,» said Sioufas. «This lack of institutional reliability is too great,» he added. EBEA President Drakoulis Foundoukakos called for immediate reforms to boost competitiveness. «Greece has a strong and stable government majority and we expect this majority to put an end to two years of pre-election climate and promote the necessary structural reforms today, not tomorrow. We are already laggards in the battle for competitiveness,» he said, criticizing the previous government for «preferring to cover up problems and postpone the structural reforms for the future.» He was referring, without explicitly saying so, to the Socialists’ half-hearted reform of the social security system and their reluctance in further deregulating the labor market. He further called for investment incentives in areas where the Greek economy has relative advantages, such as farming, tourism, processed foods and financial services.