ECONOMY

Public Works Ministry bears brunt of CSF III cuts

The Ministry of Environment and Public Works is going to have to trim its program of building roads, as well as ports and urban infrastructure projects in order to help speed up the implementation of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF III) program. The government, unable to absorb all EU funds earmarked for CSF III, recently reached an agreement with the European Commission to cut its own contribution to the program by 1.8 billion, to 9.76 billion euros. The Environment and Public Works Ministry will bear the brunt of the cuts, more than 500 million. These cuts were the reason Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias absented himself from the Cabinet meeting where Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis presented the 2007 budget. Relations between Souflias and Alogoskoufis have soured over the issue, with Souflias accusing Alogoskoufis of tightfistedness and Alogoskoufis countering that Souflias’s ministry was not quick enough on project implementation. Alogoskoufis’s glib answer to reporters asking him about Souflias’s absence from the Cabinet meeting – «Was he? I didn’t notice» – has not helped their relations and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has had to play appeaser among his two closest collaborators. Other CSF III cuts concern the Information Society program (120 million euros), an ambitious program run by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which appears to have stalled; infrastructure projects in railways, ports and airports (200 million euros) run by the Ministry of Transport and Communications; the Development Ministry’s Competitiveness Program (200 million); programs for the improvement of agriculture (100 million) and education and training programs (120 million). Greece will be able to include some of these programs under CSF IV, which runs from 2007-2013, but this will mean not being able to implement other, equally important, programs. CSF III included 22.7 billion in EU aid, 11.56 billion in state contributions and, potentially, up to 17 billion in private sector funds. Greece has absorbed, so far, barely half of the EU funds.