Leaders focus on privatizations

Pushing forward with the government?s privatization program was the main topic of discussion between Greece?s coalition leaders when they met on Monday.

The heads of New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left agreed on the 10 public assets they consider to be primed for privatization and discussed the speeding up of dozens of legislative and administrative actions that need to be taken to remove obstacles to this and future rounds of sales.

?This is not about auctioning off assets; it is about making better use of public wealth with an emphasis on helping growth and creating jobs,? said PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos after the meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis also took part in Monday?s meeting, along with the two newly-appointed top officials of Greece?s privatization fund, TAIPED.

Sources told Kathimerini that the first public assets and enterprises that are going to be made available to investors are the International Broadcasting Center (currently the Golden Hall shopping mall), the state lottery, Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), the gas grid operator (DESFA), the Elliniko site, the state gambling company (OPAP), the horse racing organization (ODIE), land in Corfu and Rhodes, and 28 real estate properties that will be sold and leased back.

It was also agreed that the government?s general secretary, Takis Baltakos, would be responsible for overseeing the effort to complete 77 legislative and administrative acts relating to privatizations, many of which are included in Greece?s bailout terms. Sources said that this will involve coordinating the action of nine ministries. Baltakos is a close associate of the prime minister.

Among the legislative acts that need to be completed is one that will lead to the cancellation of the law that requires the state to retain a 51 percent stake in public enterprises considered to be of strategic importance. The law that limits a single investor holding just 20 percent of one of these companies will also be repealed. Regulatory authorities to oversee the privatization of highways, ports, airports and refuse collection also need to be set up.

The three coalition leaders are to meet again on Tuesday to discuss the government?s immediate targets.