ECONOMY

SEV calls for a rapid end to crisis

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday called for a rapid end to the current uncertainties brought on by charges levied against prominent businessmen, saying that the turmoil diverted attention away from more crucial issues and at the same time could drive away foreign investors. SEV President Lefteris Antonakopoulos criticized Greeks’ tendency to exaggerate events, with the result that more significant matters were left unattended. More importantly, the current chaotic situation could scare away foreign investors who are not used to Greek hyperbole. «At this moment, we should be concern ourselves with the economy,» he said. «There should be a rapid end to uncertainties.» The political turmoil, originating from charges leveled by a member of Parliament against a leading businessman and which resulted in criminal charges being filed against the entrepreneur, and an unrelated judicial investigation into a prominent publisher, has made investors skittish as well. The Athens stock market, always sensitive to political developments and speculation, fell by 1.12 percent yesterday as investors reacted to the ongoing crisis and spate of negative corporate earnings. Responding to rumors that the current uncertainty is the result of a turf war between businesses seeking a bigger share of public projects, Antonakopoulos said it was not clear how the crisis came about. «If it should be true that business interests are involved, then we condemn them,» he said. The SEV head said, the crisis aside, Greece’s complicated and uncertain tax system continues to be a deterrent as far as businesses and foreign investors are concerned. Nikos Analytis, SEV’s vice president, urged trade unionists currently involved in wage negotiations to bear in mind the inflationary impact of excessive wage demands. He said the federation prefers to initiate talks based on the official inflation estimate of 2.8 percent for 2002 and to make up the difference with a catch-up clause should prices exceed projections. Analytis also suggested a role for private insurance in the social security system. «Privately run pension funds can offer their administrative expertise and help state-run social security funds utilize their assets better,» he said. Trade unionists in general have opposed the entry of the private insurance sector into the social security system.