State property to get facelift

The government said yesterday that it expects soon to upgrade part of its massive real estate portfolio through financial leasing tools that will allow it to develop and improve some 1.8 billion euros’ worth of state property. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said that the preparation of a draft bill allowing for sale and leaseback programs is in its final stage and will soon be available for public discussion. «The state has a very big real estate portfolio which has not been managed with the efficiency required,» Alogoskoufis said after an Inner Cabinet meeting. «The draft bill will give more potential to government real estate firms,» he added. Many state services are currently housed in run-down buildings desperately in need of repair work and a facelift. According to the finance minister, the legislation will allow state services on tight budgets to take advantage of technical know-how available in the construction sector and improve their facilities despite limited resources. The sale and leaseback program involves the owner of a property selling it to a company and then agreeing to lease it back for a fee over a specific time period. The former owner then reclaims the property at the expiration of the contract period. This system can also help the government make use of improved facilities, which it later reclaims. Sources told Kathimerini that the draft bill also foresees financial tools where major construction work or improvements to the building are made before it is turned back over to the government. The Finance Ministry will use the leaseback options for its prime real estate in the center of Athens and along the fast-developing Attiki Odos zone. Alogoskoufis rejected the idea that money earned from the program will be use to block holes in the state budget. «Whatever revenues are raised are insignificant for the budget,» he said. The draft bill is expected to head to Parliament for debate by the end of March.

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