ECONOMY

Competitiveness targeted

The low productivity and lack of competitiveness of the Greek public sector consumes valuable investment funds and undermines economic growth, at a time when the country is among the European Union laggards with regard to the criteria set by the so-called Lisbon strategy – which aims to turn the EU into the world’s most competitive economy by 2010 – Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said yesterday. «Supporting entrepreneurship and fiscal rehabilitation are necessities and among the government’s basic choices, along with a turn to regional development,» he told yesterday’s session of the National Competitiveness and Development Council. The Council convened in preparation for the interim revision of the Lisbon strategy by EU ministers in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. Sioufas noted it was paradoxical that the country still lags in competitiveness despite its persistently high growth rates. General Confederation of Greek Labor President Christos Polyzogopoulos focused on the effect of cheap imports on employment. «The Greek market is under attack from the countries of the Far East and the problem will intensify in coming years, affecting small and medium-sized enterprises and leading to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.» Regarding the Lisbon targets, he advised against the «easy solution» of downgrading the quality of labor and in favor of tapping the advantage of the country’s improved image after the success of the Olympic Games. Federation of Greek Industries President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos noted that adverse factors regarding competitiveness and employment do not only originate in the Far East, as the strengthening of the euro against the dollar will lead to a rise in imports from the US and a fall in exports. He proposed an aggressive policy for bolstering competitiveness and demand, without protectionism, changes in bankruptcy law, a regular review of the activities of the Competitiveness Council and a discussion of the related issues by the cabinet once a month. Dimitris Armenakis, president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, said that illicit street trade in cheap imports hits both commerce and manufacturing, and called for the issuing of presidential decrees activating the law on street markets and vendors. Sioufas recognized that the effect of illicit street trading has assumed serious dimensions and said controls have been intensified. The issue will be the focus of a coming Competitiveness Council session. Incentives bill Separately, Deputy Finance Minister Adam Regouzas said the government is placing emphasis on entrepreneurship and support for small and medium-sized firms in order to bolster economic growth. He said the recently announced reduction of corporate taxes and the new investment incentives bill, due to be presented today, are the main instruments of this policy.