ECONOMY

Funds for Thessaloniki

The 67th Thessaloniki International Fair, which opened to the public on Saturday and will last until Sunday, was also the occasion for the official declaration of Thessaloniki’s candidacy for a much larger event, the 2008 World Exposition (EXPO 2008). «We are creating a city capable of hosting an event of global economic, tourist, scientific and cultural importance,» Simitis told business representatives from northern Greece in a Saturday speech. Simitis departed from the tradition which holds that, during this speech, the prime minister spells out the following year’s economic policies. Having revealed in advance the government’s tax reform plans, partly in order to defuse the demonstrations that greeted him in Thessaloniki, Simitis focused exclusively on the things the government has done, or plans to do, for Thessaloniki. A month ahead of local government elections, Simitis said that the government would stick to its pledge to allocate 80 percent of resources from the 50-billion-euro Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) to regions outside Athens. Simitis said that his government aimed to make Thessaloniki a «modern European metropolis» and reminded his audience that the city – specifically, the nearby region of Halkidiki, chosen to keep demonstrations away – will host the EU summit on June 19-21 next year. He said the government would, in the next few years, spend over 4.5 billion euros in Thessaloniki to modernize the airport, improve access to the port, complete two ring roads and a road under the harbor, increase the city’s supply of fresh water, build new courts and a city hall, and set up an international university where instruction will be in English. «When fiscal asphyxiation threatens the economy and inflation keeps rising; when unemployment has invaded every Greek household and our products keep losing their competitiveness in foreign markets; when, despite all that, the prime minister declares himself satisfied with his economic policy, then either of two things is happening. Either the prime minister is intentionally deceiving the Greek people or he lives in another country,» New Democracy MP and shadow economy minister Nikos Nikolopoulos declared when asked to comment on Simitis’s speech. Kousoulakos admits that the traditional way, namely privatization of state-owned entities, has exhausted all possibilities, which means the government has to look for other methods.