Boosting competitiveness

Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas announced yesterday he will submit a total of 10 bills to Parliament by the end of the year in order to boost trade and provide greater transparency in public procurement. Five of these bills – on expanding the powers of the Competition Commission; public procurement; the creation of a consumers’ advocate office; the reform of fuel distribution and inspection centers; and the simplification of procedures required to set up a manufacturing firm – will be submitted «immediately,» Sioufas informed reporters yesterday, after a meeting of the National Council on Competitiveness and Growth, which is made up of government officials, employers, unionists and academics. During the council’s meeting, Sioufas announced that representatives of other ministries will also join as members. He also listed a number of actions his ministry has taken to boost competitiveness. Among them are: a reorganization of the operational plan on competitiveness, in order to absorb more European Union funds; a crackdown on illegal trade; big investments designed to boost, and diversify, energy sources; and the five bills described above. Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Folias stressed the need for Greece to regain its foothold in markets it used to export to and referred to the present very low level of exports. A former businessman, Folias stressed the importance of lower corporate taxes and the need for a simplified tax code in boosting competitiveness. Lower taxes, he said, would lower costs and help exports rise. They would also help channel more money into investment which, in turn, would mean more jobs. He described unemployment benefits as a means to perpetuate unemployment, funds which would be more useful elsewhere. The council also discussed the agenda of the EU’s Competitiveness Council, which will meet in Brussels on Friday. Christos Polyzogopoulos, president of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), said Europe would fail to boost the employment rate to 67 percent by 2005 and added that the current policies failed to take advantage of Europe’s growth potential.

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