Crucial six months

The government said yesterday the second half of the year will be crucial for the economy, as it plans to push through a number of key initiatives. In statements to the Athens News Agency, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said public-private partnerships (PPPs) – on which a draft bill will soon be submitted to Parliament – will give a significant boost to growth. Another draft bill on property taxation will be submitted next month. It will be voted on in October and go into effect on January 1, 2006. The government also wants to restructure organizations and utilities in which it still holds major stakes, and which must now operate on the principles of corporate governance, Alogoskoufis said. Further, it will have to draft the national investment plan that is to be subsidized under the European Union’s Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF) in the 2007-2013 period. Alogoskoufis said he is hopeful the negotiations at EU level for the allocation of funds among member states will be completed next month. Finally, he said that the pressing issue of the unfunded pension liabilities of the two banks in which the government has controlling and major stakes – Agricultural and Emporiki, respectively – will be settled within 15 days. Earlier this week, the government said it will bring legislation to that effect. On another note, Alogoskoufis said the government will also encourage investment and promote the development of entrepreneurship in an environment that has lucid rules for all. Speaking at a seminar for senior executives, he said Greece is the ideal base for business in the Balkans and invited foreign businesspeople to invest in Greece. «We have set ambitious but realistic targets. Undertaking the staging of the Olympic Games was also an ambitious goal and we succeeded,» he said. Alogoskoufis said Greece has entered a new era with macroeconomic stability, more investment in education and balanced growth. It is also the only Balkan nation that is a member of both the EU and NATO, and it has modern infrastructure and the best-trained human resources in the region, he said. He noted that Greek private investment is larger than any other country’s in Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the third largest in Romania.