ECONOMY

Battle for the central bank governorship

The battle for a successor to the post of governor of the Bank of Greece is currently under way. The principal «conflict» is between the two deputy governors, Panayiotis Thomopoulos and Nikos Garganas. Both are close friends of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, which is one reason why he selected them as deputy governors at the central bank. Today, this close relationship with the two men is proving to be a burden for Simitis, who told close colleagues that he was finding it difficult to select a candidate for the governorship of the Bank of Greece. The issue came up for discussion during a recent meeting between Lucas Papademos, the outgoing governor, and Simitis. It is possible that the former must have expressed his views on the most appropriate candidate for the top post at the central bank. Opposition New Democracy, which is bidding to be the next ruling party, has also got involved in the selection process. It has notified the prime minister of its wish to have a veto over the candidate. It also wants to appoint two officials whom it can trust to the monetary policy board. While the latter demand is deemed out of step with the times, as the European Central Bank has control of monetary policy, the opposition party’s insistence constitutes a further stumbling block for the government. Thomopoulos recently met with the prime minister and expressed his intention to become a candidate for the post of governor at the Bank of Greece. Some see this as a signal that he intends to fight hard for the job. There is a growing feeling that Simitis will pick Thomopoulos for the post. Polls show that New Democracy appears to accept the candidate. The opposition feels that the Bank of Greece governor should be above party politics and it sees Thomopoulos as more closely meeting this need than Garganas. On the other hand, the opposition party’s consent to Thomopoulos could prompt Simitis not to select him, as this would be tantamount to acquiescing in the demands of the opposition. This could lead the premier instead to pick Garganas the central bank governor. Sources, however, said Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis does not agree with the choice of Thomopoulos, for personal reasons: The deputy governor was the best man at the wedding of former Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, with whom Christodoulakis is not on good terms.