Greece ranks last among its pre-2004 European Union partners in most of the benchmarks determining a country’s competitiveness, according to research made public yesterday. A survey by the Development Ministry’s Special Secretariat for Competitiveness, presented at an Athens conference attended by senior Cabinet ministers and Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas, shows that Greece occupies the bottom rungs in the pre-2004, 15-strong EU on 17 international competitiveness indices and lags behind many of the 10 new Union members. The country ranks 51st among 104 countries on the general index of global competitiveness, behind all the pre-2004 EU states – except Italy – as well as Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states among the new members. On the global business competitiveness index, Greece holds 39th position. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas promised to try to boost the country’s record, calling for a collective effort involving political parties, the public administration, businesses and unions. «We will either succeed united or continue to lag behind if we do not make the necessary effort,» he said. Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis attributed the country’s poor competitiveness standing to past economic policy, dated labor laws, state bureaucracy, legal ambiguity regarding land use, corruption and the lack of long-term planning. Alogoskoufis also heralded new legislation to allow public-private sector partnerships on major public works that, as the minister said, the state can neither afford to build nor to manage. Garganas once again urged structural reforms, while noting that the cost of living is continuously increasing in Greece, raising the specter of low employment and growth. Also yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held a series of meetings yesterday with businessmen, including the chairmen of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Union of Greek Shipowners, in a bid to attract private investments to boost growth.