SEV tells government to do more

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), the country’s main employers’ organization, yesterday took the government to task for a lack of bold measures in restructuring the economy and improving its competitiveness. «We are witnessing a gap between the government’s pre-election program and its actions. The decisive adoption of radical measures, without delay, and the commitment to time schedules is necessary,» SEV’s president, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, told the agency’s annual assembly. «Governments are not judged by opinion polls… (but) at the end of their term, by the state of the economy and results in such fields as employment, pensions, the average income and the cost of living,» he said. Kyriakopoulos complained that the government was showing indifference to domestic enterprise while «begging» foreign investors to bring money into the country. «Instead of us entrepreneurs battling competitors on the international market, we are having to fight here with the government, public administration, local government, organized and other interests,» he said, concluding that the problem of the Greek economy was one of mentality. Kyriakopoulos said that according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group commissioned by SEV, the economy could overcome problems and grow quickly with a bold program of reforms. These should focus on four main areas: infrastructure for business, the tax framework, the labor market and human resources. «Let us transform Greece into a new center of entrepreneurship and growth in Southeastern Europe and secure better pay and security for workers,» he said. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that improving productivity was the «primary responsibility of business.» Later, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis responded that the government is doing much for entrepreneurship, competitiveness and an outward-looking attitude, citing the results of the investment incentives law, passed two months ago, which he had promised at last year’s SEV assembly. «Until recently, a total of 119 investment plans in the framework of the law had been submitted, their budgets totaling 286.4 million euros. A similar law in 1998 had only attracted 69 plans, totaling 82.8 million euros in the same period. The plans will begin to be examined on Monday,» he said. In the evening session, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the government was «resolved to break the vicious cycle of past decades» and clash with «organized minority interests that stand in the way of society.» «We know a lot remains to be done and that the transition to a healthy economy is not without obstacles… Basic elements in the new growth model are market deregulation, the end of state monopolies… and the development of a coordinated, manifold and intense effort to continuously boost competitiveness.» Dimitris Daskalopoulos, SEV’s vice president, presented a Charter of Responsibilities and Rights for businesses which, he said, is aimed at contributing to the formulation of a code of ethics and a model for Greek businesspeople, helping to promote consensus among social partners and facilitate the creation and acceptance of a modern environment of competitiveness, employment and social cohesion. SEV has adopted similar initiatives twice in the past.