ECONOMY

Engineers up in arms but major projects continue

The Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) yesterday appealed to the government to tidy up its act and meet its financial obligations to construction companies. «The state itself flouts basic rules governing its democratic function… and follows practices that violate all sense of good faith and respect for transaction ethics. They are practices that make the state appear unreliable, unfair, unreasonable and arbitrary,» said TEE President Yiannis Alavanos in an open letter. He said that construction companies and project study engineers were being taxed for sums still owed to them by the government. «These are sums which the state, in violation of its contractual obligations, systematically omits to reimburse to construction firms,» Alavanos said. Moreover, tax authorities file penal charges against those firms and engineers that are unable to meet their tax obligations due to the size of the sums owed to them, he added. «TEE considers that this practice sends firms into an financial impasse.» A second serious issue, Alavanos said in the letter, was a recent overzealous interpretation of town-planning regulations which has resulted in thousands of building license applications being returned and the hassling of applicants. «The requirements of (the relevant) Presidential Decree 795D/93 are unrealistic, inapplicable and have been annulled in practice… The mass return of applications is an ineffective witch hunt which merely puts off dealing with the real problems,» said Alavanos. Highways In other news, the construction of two major road arteries, the Ionian and E65, in western and central Greece, respectively, can begin after approval of the contracts by Parliament in about September-October 2006, provided there are no appeals, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday. «The ministry is implementing an unprecedented and huge infrastructure program, mainly of roadwork, in the 2005-2006 period, and budgeted at a total 13.5 billion euros,» he said at the launching of two mountainous sections of the Egnatia Highway in northwestern Greece, which cost 265 million euros. One of the completed projects, 3.5 kilometers long, links Epirus with Macedonia through Trikala in Thessaly. Souflias said the Egnatia, which when completed will run about 680km from the port of Igoumenitsa to the Greek-Turkish border, will be fully ready in 2008. He pledged that his ministry will meet this «ambitious target.» Most of the Egnatia is already complete in sections and the remaining parts are estimated to cost 515 million euros, excluding the cost of northbound links to neighboring countries.