A tempting treasure

The government’s economic team has launched a plan to gather revenues of 4.4 billion euros (1.5 trillion drachmas) from privatization projects with the apparent aim of creating a strong reserve of funds that will be able to help change the political climate. Recent polls have shown that the conservative New Democracy party enjoys a lead of at least 8 percent. This suggests that, in its difficulties, the government could turn its most important instrument for the Greek economy’s reform, which could shape conditions for stable development, into an electoral tool and the basis for the transfer of wealth, power and influence to a handful of «friendly» business groups. The so-called third wave of privatization since 1990 began at the beginning of the year. It goes beyond the relatively painless sale of shares in state companies and leads to the direct transfer of parts of the State into the hands of private businesses. The State is now pulling out substantially from the telecommunications and energy sectors and it is handing over the use of infrastructure projects and land as well as lucrative activities in the tourism and gambling sectors. Under normal circumstances, these actions could lead to a revival of the Greek economy, which would be able to cover a long-term deficit in competitiveness. Since the beginning of the year, 15 percent of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) has been sold to the public, bringing in revenues of 469 million euros (160 billion drachmas). The ETBA bank was sold to Piraeus Bank for 500 million euros (170 billion drachmas), followed by the sale of the Skaramangas shipyards to a German consortium. The privatization of Attica’s marinas is forecast to bring in 88 million euros (30 billion drachmas) and the Mont Parnes casino another 102 million euros (35 billion drachmas). Last week, 8 percent of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) was sold for 645 million euros (220 billion drachmas) and the sale of part of Hellenic Petroleum could bring in 454 million euros (155 billion drachmas) and 20 percent of the OPAP betting agency another 469 million euros (160 billion drachmas). Sales are also slated in the postal service, and more share packages in PPC, the Athens Water Company and the Piraeus Port Authority. A rough estimate brings the total to 4.4 billion euros (1.5 trillion drachmas) by the end of the year.

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