ECONOMY

Alogoskoufis confident of exit from the straits

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday oversaw a presentation of the Greek economy and its prospects to institutional investors in London, focusing on the banking sector, particularly National Bank’s recent acquisition of Turkey’s Finansbank and the planned privatization of Emporiki Bank. Early next week, Alogoskoufis has planned meetings with officials from Citigroup, which is acting as a privatization adviser for Emporiki. Citigroup is expected to present its proposals, including a timetable for the sale. Alogoskoufis noted yesterday that since taking office in March 2004, the government has implemented a series of privatizations, raising a total of 4.2 billion euros, of which 2.7 billion, or 67 percent, has come from abroad. This amount represents 2.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and has contributed to reducing public debt. The privatization drive, Alogoskoufis continued, is helping attain the objectives of restructuring the economy, reducing the presence of the state in the economy, strengthening competition and maximizing benefits for the public purse, the economy and citizens. The privatizations of ATEbank and Postal Savings Bank this year raised 1.34 billion euros – representing 81 percent of the total budgeted revenue from this source for 2006. Alogoskoufis reiterated his belief that Greece will ultimately succeed in reducing its public deficit to below the EU-prescribed 3 percent of GDP this year. He added that the 2007 budget has been drawn up using this same logic of consolidating public finances and bolstering growth. Alogoskoufis appeared unflustered by the downturn in public revenue collection in April and May, which, he said, is manageable. He insisted that emphasis will be given to reducing expenses and that this will offset any revenue shortfall. Today Alogoskoufis is going to Ottawa, Canada, to take part in the meeting of the Bildenberg Club to which main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou has also been invited.