ECONOMY

Minister calls on shipowners to invest in several sectors

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday called on shipowners to invest in Greece, acknowledging the importance of merchant shipping for Greece’s economy and its contribution to the country’s current account. Alogoskoufis addressed the shipowners in a meeting at Piraeus Marine Club. Introducing Alogoskoufis, club president Yiannis Xylas had insisted on the shipowners’ desire to invest, but which was thwarted by red tape and the state machinery’s slowness to respond, inefficiency and corruption. «It would be an unforgivable mistake for the country to miss this chance. Of course, we did not expect all those things that were not accomplished over a number of years to happen within 12 months [the period the conservative government has ruled]. But, we think it is now time to implement a more efficient economic policy,» said Xylas. Alogoskoufis said the government was making an effort to put the economy back into shape without seeking publicity or making flashy moves to elicit approval for transient results. «We are attempting deep and widespread reforms, we are looking forward, we have no illusions and we do not wish to live on borrowed money by mortgaging the future of young people. The actions taken by the Karamanlis government are future-oriented and do not aim at keeping things as they are for the sake of keeping power. We want to count on the help of shipowners, who have adapted smoothly to the challenges of globalization and do not fear competition because they have been used to being the best globally,» Alogoskoufis said. The minister said the Greek economy ought to rid itself of its inward-looking mentality and limited competitiveness, elements encouraged by an ideology that put too much emphasis on reliance on the state and bred entangled interests and corruption. «The vague legal framework in place until recently was a strong counterincentive (to investment),» said Alogoskoufis, adding that the new law on investment incentives was «clear, simple and effective.» Asked about the forthcoming law on public-private partnerships, Alogoskoufis replied that ports will fall under its purview, but that some special legal provisions concerning the Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authorities – both of them listed on the Athens Stock Exchange – needed to be made. The minister also referred to several changes soon to be made in laws that would further help «serious investors.» These include a further simplification of the tax code and important changes in bankruptcy law. He also hinted at changes in the status of offshore companies. «We do not promote companies, but investment projects,» said Alogoskoufis, calling on shipowners to invest in tourism, real estate, sports installations built for the Olympics, marinas and golf courses. Shipowners remarked that they were not asking for special treatment or tax breaks, only for a business-friendly environment.