The economy and finance minister will have considerably increased powers in the management of the European Union investment subsidies program for 2007-2013, under a bill submitted to Parliament yesterday. The bill for the Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF IV) also provides for much stricter procedures of certification for their management as well as control mechanisms for the subsidy applicants, which make it almost prohibitive for most of the country’s municipal authorities to apply for them independently. The task will be undertaken on their behalf by a special agency, Demos SA, and it is estimated that about 600 applicants will be ultimately certified to share the 24.6-billion-euro bonanza. CSF IV aims to promote conditions for self-sustained growth for the Greek economy after 2013, when EU subsidies to Greece will be drastically curtailed, as it is hoped that it will have considerably narrowed the gap with the more developed EU members. Last chance? «It is perhaps the last time that our country will have such funds at its disposal. With the proper utilization of these funds, Greece will become more productive, more outward-looking and more competitive by 2013. «In this period, we can achieve full convergence… with the leaders and acquire a new role. This will have multiple benefits for the country, both economic and political,» Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told a presentation of the bill on Wednesday. Projects that do not show any progress for six months or more will be taken off the program, while those that show a high degree of fund absorption will be awarded increments. Projects with budgets of less than -300,000 will be excluded from funding. In order to speed up approval procedures, the Economy and Finance Ministry will exclude from its coordinating role projects budgeted up to 5 million euros. By contrast, the minister may exercise a veto on the approval of subsidies for large projects, budgeted up to -25 million in the environment sector and up to -50 million in other sectors. The government hopes that the first advance disbursements under CSF IV, estimated at -500 million, will be made in October. Separately, Alogoskoufis told reporters after briefing the prime minister that the growth rate of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter will be similar to the 4.6 percent of the first quarter. He also predicted that the May unemployment figure will be below April’s 8.6 percent.