Closed profession bill seen in fall

The government will table a bill this fall for the liberalization of closed-shop professions, which is set to include all regulations provided for by the memorandum Greece has signed with its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. This is the decision that Economy Minister Louka Katseli and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou made at yesterday’s meeting with the IMF’s Poul Thomsen, the European Commission’s Servaas Deroose and the European Central Bank’s Klaus Masuch. Papaconstantinou took it upon himself to draft the bill, which will cover all professions slated to be opened up. The impact of this policy on investment and real wages could be particularly favorable. A survey by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) indicated that in the long term, the gradual liberalization of closed professions such as lawyers, notaries architects and others would add some 13.2 percent to the gross domestic product. It would also lead to a 15.5 percent increase in private consumption and boost investments to the tune of 11.3 percent. It should also generate an increase in real wages by 10.8 percent, due to the drop in prices and the rise in productivity. The international experts also asked the Competition Commission to take a more active role in rationalizing the financial conditions in Greece. This could take place in closed-shop professions, for instance. The visiting officials did not rule out a closer relationship with the Greek watchdog. They also made a stop at the Interior Ministry, asking in particular about the finances of local authorities and to get more details about the aspects of the Kallikratis plan, essentially a restructuring of the Greek local authority map, as well as the Diavgeia program on increasing transparency in fiscal policy and other government decisions. The troika did not discuss anything regarding layoffs, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis said afterward, suggesting that «there was no discussion of any issues other than those we are already processing and realizing.» The IMF, EU and ECB representatives left the ministry reportedly satisfied with its performance. Ministry officials said one of the main points the experts made clear was that total loan obligations of local authorities, which do not exceed 1.7 billion euros, are among the lowest in the EU and do not constitute a particular burden for the state budget. Ragousis also stated that the government will swiftly proceed to improving transparency in pre-election spending, with the aim of protecting politicians from anonymous sources of funding for election campaigns.

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