Different views on blame for economy

The government and industrialists criticized each other for the failings of the Greek economy at yesterday’s annual general meeting of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV). There was a robust exchange of views between SEV Chairman and Executive President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, while Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in a message, made a more general appeal for increased business competitiveness in order to maintain high growth beyond 2004, the year of the Athens Olympics. Kyriakopoulos said that prevailing talk of illicit deals between businesses and politicians, lack of transparency and corruption were «extremely inhibiting factors» to attracting investment and developing a healthy business sector. He put most of the blame on the State, adding that certain businesspeople were also to blame. Kyriakopoulos called on all political parties, in the runup to the next general elections, to «contribute toward shielding the economy as much as possible from electoral conflict, competition in populism and bidding on who will make the most excessive promises.» In reply, Christodoulakis said that businesses were also to blame for inflation, which has eroded Greece’s competitiveness. He cited a European Commission report saying that higher profit margins contributed more to Greece’s inflation than rising labor costs. He also attacked those companies which «are inert when changes are needed, and, in a crisis, boot out the employees and lecture us about wages in China.»

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