Gov’t in the fast lane

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday asked Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis to strive for closure on all major economic fronts by September, sources said. Prime ministers traditionally deliver an annual keynote economic policy speech at the opening of Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, in September. Alogoskoufis was said to have updated the premier on the draft law on public-private partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure works – expected to unblock a number of major projects – and on the current state of negotiations toward a solution to the problem of banks’ unfunded pension liabilities. This has acquired a pressing character due to it being tied to the requirement that all listed companies report results under International Financial Reporting Standards this year. Sources said an announcement is pending regarding the settlement of Emporiki Bank’s pension fund problem in particular, which is the most serious of all, and was discussed yesterday by Alogoskoufis, his colleague at the Labor Ministry, Panos Panayiotopoulos, and Emporiki CEO Giorgos Provopoulos. Alogoskoufis also briefed Karamanlis on the program for utilization of dormant public real estate assets, which the Finance Ministry is preparing. The government is also said to be busy preparing another round of privatizations, from which it expects to raise about 1.5 billion euros this year. It has adopted the term «new generation of privatizations» but has so far studiously avoided revealing any of its plans. Another issue discussed was the government’s preparation for the general meeting of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) on Thursday, which both men will address. They are expected to provide an account of the government’s policy, focusing on the incentives included in its recently enacted tax and investment laws. At last year’s SEV meeting, Alogoskoufis had presented the two bills as centerpieces of the government’s drive to bolster entrepreneurship and change the country’s economic climate by attracting foreign investment. The government also expects to attract foreign capital through the PPPs law, which is expected to be handed for consultation to interested parties in the coming days. Sources said that in this year’s SEV meeting, Alogoskoufis is also expected to make particular reference to the government’s fiscal review last year, which revealed a public deficit far in excess of what had been forecast by its predecessor and above European Union-prescribed limits.