Christodoulakis says give business more of a chance

Greece has great opportunities but time is not on its side and it badly needs an acceleration of initiatives promoting entrepreneurship and development, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. «Only a speeding-up of development initiatives will enable our country to win the race in the right time and push forward to real convergence with the more developed nations of Europe,» he said in a speech on entrepreneurship and economic development at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he presented the agency’s annual awards. He said Greece now offers a favorable environment and prospects for a growth in business activity, featuring an impressive array of positive elements: low interest and inflation rates, an economic growth rate three times the eurozone average, a rate of growth in demand three times the European Union average, the highest rate of investment growth among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sliding public debt, and a budget in surplus. «In Greece growth is now based on fiscal stability… We could say that the economy has an unexploited growth potential, consisting of accumulated opportunities and untapped resources,» Christodoulakis said. But without a microeconomic environment conducive to the taking of entrepreneurial risks and innovative initiatives, the macroeconomic risk undermines the potential initiatives and drives investors away, he noted. Christodoulakis listed seven areas where improvements were needed to promote competition and alleviate the distortions still existing in many sectors. These include enlarging the field of action for entrepreneurs; reforming market regulations to improve productivity; implementing measures to minimize red tape and facilitate investment; and offering incentives for the creation of larger and more viable enterprises through the tapping of economies of scale and modernization; reforming the tax system to provide added incentives and programs of investment support for particular categories of entrepreneurs including women, e-business, and venture capital; and finally, reforming the education system in order to better utilize human resources. According to a report in the newspaper Imerisia yesterday, Christodoulakis is expected this week to submit to Prime Minister Costas Simitis an eight-point plan aimed at giving the economy an urgently needed boost. It includes a speedy conclusion of dialogue on pension reform, completion of the new investment incentives law in the fall, a push to privatizations, a law on private financing initiatives, a lid on expenses and a speeding-up of investment subsidy programs.