ECONOMY

Greece is still far behind in implementing Lisbon Agenda

Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas yesterday announced he was satisfied with Greece’s progress in attaining the Lisbon Agenda. The Lisbon Agenda, adopted at a European Union summit in March 2000, wanted to turn the EU into «the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion,» as that summit’s declaration said. To this effect, the EU leaders pledged to boost research and development, adopt structural reforms aimed at encouraging innovation and complete market integration while at the same time updating the European welfare state model in order to combat exclusion. It is widely acknowledged that these goals will not be achieved by 2010. Sioufas presented two reports – the annual report by the European Commission on the Assessment of National Reform Programs and a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which Kathimerini had presented a month ago. «The message of both reports was that we are moving in the right direction,» he said. Actually, the WEF report placed Greece in 23rd place among the 25 EU members, ahead of only Italy and Poland, down from 22nd in 2005. As for the Commission report, it concludes that the implementation of the National Reforms Program has started in most microeconomic areas, but that most of the measures are still at an initial stage or need additional measures to assess their impact. According to the report, a strong point among Greece’s reform is fiscal stabilization, achieved with the reduction in budget deficits. There has also been progress in providing businesses with incentives to invest and a better environment to operate on (by reducing corporate taxes), in research and development, innovation, the strengthening of competition, the operation of state agencies and in information and communication technologies, including the expansion of Internet use. The weak points, according to the report, are pension reform, civil service modernization, employment, education and training. The WEF report gives Greece a grade of 4.19 (out of 7) in its assessment of eight categories, which places it in 23rd place among the then-25 EU members (Bulgaria and Romania have joined since then). Sioufas focused on the fact that Greece’s position has improved in four out of eight categories (innovation, research and development; market deregulation; networks; and integrated financial services) and not on the overall worsening of its position.