New, profitable investments
The most common criticism of the government is that there are delays – in the liberalization of the electrical power market and other major initiatives. Are these policies being expedited? I believe the energy sector will be very important in the near future. We have a strategy for promoting Greece as the EU’s energy hub in southeastern Europe. This month I will submit to Parliament the second stage of a bill liberalizing the energy market in Greece. As we have already agreed to liberalize electricity and natural gas by 2006, we have a stable operational framework for the new market. This second stage of the legislation ensures the necessary procedures making investments and creating an electrical power market for by-products so that the Greek market can operate successfully along European lines. With full liberalization in terms of clients by 2004, perhaps even during the Greek EU presidency, the decision will be taken as to when to fully liberalize the market. We are moving steadily toward a situation where investors in electricity production from natural gas or renewable sources will be able to implement investment programs. We have approved the programs through the Third Community Support Framework and started making payments. In the first six months of this year we approved disbursement of 792 million euros, and I estimate there will be another 528.2 million euros, which will give substantial support to the energy market. Apart from liberalizing the energy market? The development law we are discussing now must offer new opportunities, modern methods of marrying technology with training. Tax breaks are no longer sufficient; new incentives are needed to link productivity and competitiveness to the creation of new jobs that result from support for profitable activities. We need profitable investments. This can and must be subsidized so that we can make the most of the work force, technology, updating technological potential and above all, ensuring quality. If you don’t offer quality in the new European market, you have no future. We have to put the emphasis on microeconomic changes. We have to attract new people into business. We need new businesses in technology, production, tourism, and in rural Greece, which needs its own fully democratic regional development, and which entails mobilizing everyone in every province, every prefecture. In tourism, in particular, due to international developments, we haven’t done as well as we would have liked. It wasn’t the best year, due to international developments, international recession and terrorism. But we did have 13 million tourists last year, and around the same number this year. There might be a 1-2-percent downturn. Greek tourism performed much better than expected. Of course next year will be difficult. The effects of the recession on Europe will be apparent in tourism. We have to make much greater efforts. In addition to the ongoing effort to improve summer tourism, it is important to develop markets for new tourism products, making use of the Greek Tourism Organization’s assets worth 10 million euros to create new investments. We need golf courses, theme parks and conference centers. We also need new forms of tourism to invest in. We are highlighting sport, culture and agricultural tourism. Apart from eco-tourism we want to link Greece’s regional development to tourism policy, in order to benefit farmers. We want measures that will link farmers, producers and tourism or other professional activities, small- and middle-sized businesses and the commercial promotion of products. We want to bring business in the form of tourism or production to the Greek provinces. In this way we offer new opportunities and deal with an existing problem, since everyone knows that you can’t make a living from farming. We need local regional development bringing tourism to all of Greece.