Tight time frame for government

During Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s meeting with Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday, the conservative leader called for the resolution of all pressing economic issues facing his government by September. This means that the conservative administration must hammer out a legal framework for public-private partnerships, solve the problem of banks’ unfunded pension liabilities – which is most serious for Emporiki Bank – and begin auctioning state property. Moreover, the New Democracy administration must quickly draft and implement a privatization program. It should be noted that, according to the budget, privatization is expected to bring in 1.5 billion euros to the state coffers. But so far revenues from privatizations have been scant. The government must overcome the shortcomings that have held it back until now so as to best deal with these outstanding issues. The September deadline is too tight to be used merely as an empty slogan for government mobilization. Adding to the urgency, the two-year deadline (until 2006) that Greece has been given by the European Union to attain fiscal equilibrium leaves no room for hindrance. If Greece fails to take any drastic action by September, it will have wasted the first of the two years, making the EU target virtually unattainable. The fact that the European Commission is pressing Greece to return Community funds due to irregularities committed by the Socialist administration of Costas Simitis is putting extra pressure on the government, which has to step up efforts to bolster growth and maximize potentials toward revenue collection in order to boost the country’s fiscal performance. Unfortunately, the prospect of the further deterioration of fiscal data caused by a return of EU funds is not a remote probability. There is no point harping on the lurking dangers and the problems: What we need is urgent action to tackle the outstanding issues. This is the only way to deal with any future problems that may emerge. Given the pressing economic demands, any further foot-dragging will be unforgivable.