Economy minister says implementation of reforms to go ahead, dismisses criticism

The government maintains that it stands by its economic and administrative reforms and will insist on carrying them through, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters yesterday. Alogoskoufis also attacked the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which has been increasingly critical of his policies, as a «counter-reformationist force.» He insisted that the reform of state-controlled utilities is proceeding as planned and has not been derailed. As for the article in the law on utility reforms that provides for government intervention should management and employees fail to agree on pay rises, Alogoskoufis said that it would be preferable for employees and management to agree on rises without outside intervention. The minister said that the whole point of the government’s reforms is to encourage investment and create jobs. Asked about the, so far, failed attempt to attract private capital for Olympic Airlines, Alogoskoufis, mindful of recent clashes with Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis, said this was the Transport Ministry’s concern and that his own role was to make sure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted. Alogoskoufis also avoided taking sides in the dispute between Greece’s two largest shipbuilders, Hellenic Shipyards and Elefsina Shipyards, with the latter accusing the former of improper competition and receiving illegal state subsidies through contracts. He simply expressed his hope that the dispute will not have any negative impact on the economy. He added that he had never discussed Hellenic Shipyards and its foreign owners, Germany’s Thyssen, with government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. Thyssen, he said, is one of the largest investors in Greece. Questions have been raised lately about the relationship between Roussopoulos and a close friend of his who represents the Thyssen Group and is also involved in armaments procurement deals. Alogoskoufis briefed reporters on the latest European council meeting and its decisions on boosting economic growth. He said the European Union will place emphasis on research, innovation, small and medium-sized enterprises and job creation. The European Union has called for an accelerated increase in spending to reach an average of 3 percent of member states’ GDP by 2013. It also called on members to place more emphasis on lifetime training, «one-stop shops» to facilitate the swift setup of new companies and on increasing the number of employed youth, women, persons with special needs and legal immigrants. The European Council has agreed that graduating students be offered a job or a place in a training program within six months of graduation.