Wasting precious Community funds

The Economy Ministry is planning to allocate some 3 billion euros from the European Union-funded National Strategic Reference Framework, known in Greece as ESPA, to small- and medium-sized enterprises. Besides manufacturing and tourism, which had previously been funded by other EU programs, the ministry will also repeat the experiment of subsidizing the trade and service sectors. In 2006, as the deadline for the use of EU funds loomed, then Development Minister Christos Folias decided for the first time to subsidize investments in these sectors with half a billion euros. This meant that taxpayers in Greece and the EU paid for «dynamic» investments such as shop windows, shelves etc. Bars got new fridges and glasses from taxpayers’ money, and all this at a time when banks gave out loans without hesitation. This state-funded entrepreneurship has nothing to do with the idea behind the EU funds, which are aimed at supporting growth with long-term benefits. Instead it strengthens the concept of making a quick profit. There will always be the view that since Europeans are giving the money to us, we should take it in any possible way. It is the same as the story with the farmers: Billions of euros were wasted on supporting farmers’ produce. ESPA is the last such EU package. If it is wasted on shelves and glasses, we will all become farmers sooner or later.

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