ECONOMY

Ambitious export plan laid out

The government’s strategy to promote exports was presented by the Regional Development and Competitiveness Ministry at a ceremony in Athens yesterday. Prime Minister George Papandreou attended the event and admitted that the government often acts as an obstacle to exporters, adding that 2011 will be a year of structural reforms. He also said that businesses are right in asking for tax cuts but added that this can be done on the condition that tax evasion is stamped out. The government’s plan targets an increase in exports, as a percentage of gross domestic product, to 16 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2012 from 8.7 percent currently. However, the crucial question for exporters – the value-added tax returns amounting to 500 million euros that are being withheld by the government due to its budgetary problems – remained unanswered. Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said banks will work with state funds that finance very small business activities in a bid to find tools to help cover the financial gap arising from VAT returns being withheld. The national export strategy will focus on the creation of a fund – called Go to Market (G2M) – that will have an initial capital of 70 million euros and will be ready to start operating in the first quarter of 2011. Banks are seen playing a crucial role here. The creation of a logo to be used by the export and tourism sector and by the government in its attempt to attract foreign investment is also a part of the strategy. Procedures for the creation of the logo have commenced, along with the creation of a unified system that will certify the quality of exports. In a bid to improve the administration of the exports sector, the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) will be restructured based on the Netherlands’ Foreign Trade Agency EVD. The plan also foresees the creation of a joint ministerial meeting that will oversee issues relating to the export sector with the participation of the Finance, Foreign, Agricultural and Regional Development ministries.