GDP revision defended against blunder claim

The government yesterday stuck to its guns in defense of its proposed 25 percent upward revision of Greece’s gross national product (GDP), against opposition claims of a blunder that will cost the country considerable additional contributions to the European Union budget. «Greece has to stop seeing the European Union as a fund. It it not the poor relative and will be increasingly assuming its due responsibilities… We shall pay again, just like we did with the last revision,» Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. Speaking at a Foreign Press Association luncheon, he said the last revision in 1994 cost about 4 billion euros, of which 800 million is still pending final approval. Alogoskoufis said the search for a strategic partner in OTE telecom, in which the state still holds a 38 percent stake and the management, is still on, but in the present circumstances the government is oriented toward a placement of 15 percent. In reference to plans for the Public Power Corporation and the Athens Water Company, he said the government’s main concern was for public utilities to operate under private economic criteria but also take into account shareholders’ and users’ interests. Responding to suggestions that his recent warning to investors to be cautious about stock market euphoria had prompted a steep fall in the share price of the Postal Savings Bank (TT) which the government plans to partly privatize, the economy minister said the Athens bourse enjoyed autonomy and credibility in its operations and any fluctuations in share prices could not affect the privatizations program. He said the government wishes to secure the long-term viability of the country’s social insurance system and places great importance on the consent of political parties in the reform process. «Great reforms cannot progress without broad consensus. Parties must make the historical leap forward… While the government has pushed through reforms, it has enjoyed neither their consent nor at least their toleration,» Alogoskoufis told reporters at a briefing at the Foreign Press Association. He said the government is awaiting the findings of the Analytis report by the Economic and Social Committee on reforming the country’s ailing pension system, which will take place in the next four years.