ECONOMY

SEV tells State to grab opportunity

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday urged the government to exploit the opportunities presented by the current global uncertainty and speed up long-delayed structural reforms. This is a significant opportunity for us to accelerate the process, SEV head Lefteris Antonakopoulos told reporters. It would also help attract foreign investments which would in turn boost the economy and create more jobs. Notwithstanding the present uncertainties and possible recession, companies will continue to plan for the future, he said, making it essential that the state prepare the necessary institutional framework to attract and retain foreign investors. Antonakopoulos said changes that needed to be made include reforming the civil service to make it more flexible, cutting red tape for businesses and simplifying the tax system. Economists and companies have long complained of a slowdown in structural reforms following Greece’s entry into the eurozone at the beginning of the year. The pace has slackened even more following the PASOK government’s decision to bring the party congress forward to October from next March. Structural reforms thus far have been rudimentary, comprising principally of opening up the telecommunications and electricity markets and privatizing a number of state-owned enterprises. In the meantime, Greece will be cushioned from the worst of the predicted global recession, unlike the major eurozone member states. Incoming European Union structural funds and projects associated with the 2004 Olympic Games are expected to provide a major stimulus and help Greece maintain its growth momentum, Antonakopoulos said. However, it is unlikely that the country will reach the 4.8 percent target set by the state prior to the US attacks. Official optimism has also been curtailed somewhat following the events of September 11. The National Economy Ministry has said it is preparing two draft budgets for 2002, one of which will contain estimates without counting the impact of heightened global uncertainties while the second draft will take into account an economic downturn.