Gov’t pledges major effort to boost transparency, notes promising growth of bank transactions

The government yesterday vowed to intensify efforts to boost transparency and fight corruption in the public sector but said the struggle was long. «We shall be ruthless toward phenomena of corruption… (However) the ills accumulated over past decades cannot be dealt with from one day to the next. But our steady orientation is the creation of the framework which will enable us to fight such phenomena effectively,» said Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis at a conference organized by the Hellenic Bank Association and Transparency International Hellas. Greece is rated as having among the highest rates of corruption in the European Union. He said the government had already made significant efforts in this direction and was determined to proceed even faster, tapping international experience and proposals of agencies such as Transparency International. «It is not just state organizations and companies that need transparency and reliable budgets and balance sheets, but also hospitals, social insurance funds and local government organizations,» Alogoskoufis said. Among other things, the government had bolstered the armory of tax and customs authorities to fight tax evasion and harmonized legislation with EU directives against money laundering, he added. «Banks are expressly required to report to overseeing authorities all transactions of suspect origin. In this way, money laundering can be restricted substantially, as transactions are increasingly handled by the banking system,» Alogoskoufis said. National Bank of Greece President Takis Arapoglou said that the internationalization and outward-looking drive of the banking system created a new reality and required a modification of the ways in which bank risks were handled. «The role of overseeing authorities and banks in informing citizens on corruption issues is crucial,» he said. Transparency International Hellas President Costas Bakouris reported to the conference that, according to the results of research that will be presented early next month, 10 percent of all instances of corruption in Greece involve transactions with the banking system. On an international level, about 3 percent of globally produced wealth is from illegal activities.