Bigger private sector role mooted

Ports and airports will be the next items on the government’s privatization agenda, which aims to restructure the economy and make it more efficient, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. «Planning for the further contribution of the private sector to the development of infrastructures, such as ports and airports, is progressing. We are promoting partnerships which will contribute to the upgrading of our ports and strengthen this country’s role as a transit hub in the broader region,» Alogoskoufis told the Economist conference «Driving the Global Agenda through 2020» in Athens. Alogoskoufis said that in the restructured economy the public sector will absorb less resources and manage them more efficiently, while the private sector will become more competitive. After the completion of negotiations with Deutsche Telekom for the sale of a stake in OTE telecom and the participation of the Germans in management, the government plans to hire consultants that will recommend the best form of public-private partnerships for the development of ports and airports. The main scenario is one in which the respective operating authorities are converted into corporations (societes anonymes) and minority stakes are made available to strategic investors along with the management. An alternative would be for private partners of the government and concessionaires to undertake the funding of further development projects. Alogoskoufis said such schemes were part of a reform policy with several goals targeted up to 2020. These include trimming the country’s public debt to below 60 percent of GDP, as well as bolstering entrepreneurship and competitiveness with a view to increasing employment from 61 percent of the population to 65 percent and per capita domestic product from the current $21,900 to the EU-15 average of $32,275. In addition, it is hoped that the reforms will end the dependence of the Greek economy on EU investment subsidies and improve the efficiency of social services, Alogoskoufis said. Meanwhile, dockworkers in Thessaloniki protesting govenment plans to bring private operators into the country’s ports, said they would continue their overtime ban with greater resolve, following a Piraeus court ruling that their mobilization was unlawful and abusive.

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