Simitis: Exporters can do more

TOKYO – Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday struck several chords on economic policy issues during his ongoing official visit here. The particular weight he placed on economic issues was to be expected, given Athens’s desire to boost exports in rich markets such as Japan’s, to develop investment programs in Greece – or, through Greek channels, in other countries, mainly Balkan – and, naturally, to see an increase in the number of Japanese tourists to Greece. The overriding concern of the Greek government is to lessen the particularly large deficit of trade with Japan; the export-to-import ratio currently stands at 11 to 1. Speaking at a press conference, Simitis urged Greek entrepreneurs, whose role in this effort is considered pivotal, to pay particular attention to issues of quality in their products, competitive prices and consumer protection. He pointed out the example of a number of Greek enterprises that have managed to establish their name in the demanding Japanese market. He also pointed out that the State plans programs and policies aimed at supporting such efforts of Greek firms. Referring to concerns voiced by businesspeople accompanying the Greek delegation, he acknowledged that their demand for a speedier implementation of European Union-subsidized investment programs was a valid one. He said a frequent cause of delays was the existence of a multi-level system of control of disbursements and utilization of funds, although the government has made efforts to simplify «initial procedures.» As regards complaints of high company taxes, Simitis said these have now been reduced and «are no longer at astronomical levels in comparison to elsewhere in the European Union.» «Do not forget that we also have to finance social policy in Greece. You can’t have everything without taxes,» he said. He stressed, as he also did during an address to Japanese businessmen earlier, that the government is «especially interested in the growth of Japanese tourism to Greece.» The Joint Action Plan co-signed with his Japanese counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi, provides for the re-introduction of direct flights between Athens and Tokyo, but the Greek premier was somewhat ambivalent about the prospect. «As far as Olympic Airways is concerned, this connection is not on,» he said, as the route is particularly costly to operate. «This connection is difficult but it must be done. However, we do not want subsidized routes.» The premier, who is due to visit Kyoto today, on the last stop in this trip, said he was fully satisfied by the results of his visit, noting that Greece is in a position to confirm at any opportunity «its very good reputation as a nation of stability with high growth rates.»

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