Traders hail program for small firms

Greek traders yesterday expressed satisfaction with the program of investment subsidies for small commercial enterprises (employing up to nine staff) announced by the government on Wednesday. Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) President Drakoulis Fountoukakos said the program, which will be funded by both national and European Union resources, addressed a permanent grievance of small traders and amounted to a substantial contribution to the growth of their firms. «EBEA’s standing position is that reform initiatives in the domain of small enterprises should no longer be generalized but specialized,» he said. «The program will help strengthen and modernize small businesses, which have been excluded from any form of national and EU programs.» Fountoukakos also said there is need for more incentives for mergers between small and mid-sized firms (SMEs), and partnerships between SMEs and bigger companies. The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) praised Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and his deputies in a letter for the measure, which it said signaled a new strategy in the country’s economic development. It also congratulated the Hellenic Organization of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Handicrafts (EOMMEX), which will manage the program, for the transparency and the unprecedented speed in completing the program. Under the program, a total of more than 200 million euros will be invested in about 2,444 schemes approved for the modernization and improvement of productivity of commercial firms. Of this sum, about 80 million euros will represent investment subsidies under the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework’s Competitiveness Program. The approved schemes were out of a total of 4,071 submitted, and 78 percent of them will be implemented in the regions. About 9 percent concern clothing retailers and a further 7.4 percent other specialized retailers.