ECONOMY

SEV chief slams absence of gov’t during unrest

The country’s leading group of industrialists said that last week’s riots highlighted the «nonexistent role» adopted by the government and pointed out how «dangerously susceptible» the economy is to the global crisis. «In recent days, the nonexistent role of the state was demonstrated,» said Dimitris Daskalopoulos, head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), yesterday. «We suffered a catastrophe that stank of decay – even in the way it was handled.» Opposition parties and business groups have accused the conservative government of failing to act swiftly to bring an end to street riots sparked by the fatal shooting by a police officer of a 15-year-old boy. The damage – including lost revenues – to stores in Athens and Thessaloniki has been estimated to exceed the one-billion-euro mark. The government has announced a series of financial benefits it will offer to store owners to help them get back on their feet, including a one-off payment of 10,000 euros and the provision of subsidized loans. The Athens Traders Association says that turnover among members has fallen by 50 percent in the last 10 days. Small business owners can start claiming the one-off payment from ATEbank as of today, according to a statement issued by the Finance Ministry yesterday. Daskalopoulos said that in times of economic crisis, people turn to the government for help but added that the Greek state is a basic part of the problem. «The government appears overborrowed and the economy is in total insolvency in tight international capital markets,» he said. In a note dated December 16, Citi said the Greek economy’s underlying problems, including the huge government debt, are becoming more obvious in the slowing global environment. Greece’s public debt, the second highest in the eurozone after Italy, is expected to rise to 104.5 percent of GDP in 2009, from 100.3 percent in 2008, before moving on to 108.5 percent in 2010, Citi added.