NEWS

Infrastructure is a prerequisite for investment

The challenge of developing the Greek economy is not only threatened by an inability to attract investments but by the difficult conditions encountered by anyone who does decide to invest in Greece, providing jobs and taxes as well as prospects for growth. A prerequisite for growth is the existence of organized sites for production, but in Greece most manufacturing and industrial units are outside zoned areas, lacking in basic infrastructure, such as roads and drains and modern telecommunication and energy networks. According to the Development Ministry, there are currently 100 industrial zones around the country, 48 of them in Attica. Only 12 of the total, just two of them in Attica, are on organized sites. The remainder are outside zoned areas, their only boundaries being the fences that separate them from their neighbors. Typical of these are the industrial areas in Koropi, northeast of Athens, which cover 250 hectares on the Vari-Koropi road and 150 hectares in the Karela district, which employ a total of 17,000 people. The main access route is from Lavriou Avenue, which is usually full of deep puddles because of the absence of drains, and which is too narrow for the vehicles that use it. Particularly in winter, the water on the road often freezes, resulting in accidents. A month ago, the regional government called for tenders for the construction of rainwater channels, budgeted at 4.4 million euros. Construction is supposed to begin by Easter (with a 45 percent discount from the contractor). As for the rest of the network, conditions are more characteristic of a Third World nation – country roads clumsily asphalted and rarely maintained test the mettle of both drivers and vehicles. There is no municipal road lighting, and often no garbage dumpsters, although the municipality is paid hefty taxes. Even within the factories themselves, many of which belong to firms listed high on the Athens Stock Exchange, problems are rife. The lack of drains and waste processing systems create problems on the site and for the surrounding environment; the electricity supply is often the cause of mechanical damage from power surges that are a frequent occurrence, as is recourse to generators, and not only during bad weather but toward the end of summer. As for requests by the businesses for natural gas supplies, these are passed on from pillar to post. Legislative framework Given that these are already built-up areas, the chance of zoning plans being drawn up after the fact is somewhat limited. The legislative framework includes two laws: 1337/83 (the «Tritsis» law) and 2545/97 from the Development Ministry. The municipality and the Business Union of Eastern Attica are at odds over the zoning of Koropi’s industrial area. The municipality is citing Law 1337, which calls for a contribution of land and cash of up to 50 percent according to the size of the property in 1982, whereas the union cites Law 2545 – a contribution of 30 percent of land and 10 percent in cash based on the current property boundaries. The Business Union of Eastern Attica The union is trying to set up an agency to monitor the construction of all necessary infrastructure with up to 35 percent of the budget coming from European Union programs. Union President G. Ginosatis is in favor of zoning the area based on Law 2545/97 since it demands a smaller contribution of land and cash than does Law 1337. The union has applied to the Development Ministry to restrict the total contribution to 10 percent (7 percent land and 3 percent cash), believing that the government will accept this (encouraged by a recent statement by the general secretary for industry, Spyros Papadopoulos). However, the latter appeared hesitant when approached by Kathimerini. He admitted that existing Law 2545 concerned areas of which less than 85 percent was built upon, «which does not apply to Koropi.» «One of the ministry’s goals is to revise the laws,» he said, but added, «The ministry supports the businesses’ initiative, but we have done whatever there was to be done.» The union believes that reducing the contribution percentage is a condition for any other plans, but this demand is not the only problem. In this area are many properties with different characteristics and there are no guarantees that blanket approval by owners will be forthcoming. Multiple ownership has been an insurmountable problem in other industrial zones that considered applying to Law 2545, such as Paeania and Aspropyrgos. Koropi municipal authority At the other end of the spectrum, the local municipality says it is prepared to assign zoning studies on the basis of Law 1337 «with the consent of the other parties.» Koropi Mayor Theodoros Athanassopoulos told Kathimerini he was open to proposals from local businesses, but he appeared to favor Law 1337. As he said, the contributions based on the law represented less than 60 percent of the area, contrary to what union representatives assert, since «the estimation is made according to the boundaries on March 10, 1982 and therefore the cost is lower.» However, the mayor said the contribution would be evaluated according to the objective value of the land, «but at any rate not at 220 euros per square meter.» If the debate appears like a «family squabble,» the harsh facts in Koropi (and most other industrial zones) are grim. No matter which solution is chosen, it will not bear results before 2010. Meanwhile, ministries and municipalities should do what they can to reclaim lost competitiveness.