The compilation of the country’s land register has come to a halt. Of the 92 companies which took part in the project, 66 went on strike yesterday demanding more than 15 billion drachmas in outstanding payments. The ministries of Town Planning and Public Works and Finance have not said when the debts will be paid off. In a parallel development, a public prosecutor tabled criminal charges against seven members on the board of Ktimatologio SA, the state-run company which is in charge of the entire project, and has indicted an engineer for losses of 50 million drachmas from the public purse. The strike by the private companies and the notification of the European Commission’s Fraud Prevention Office about the charges have occurred at a most crucial juncture as the EU is due to decide whether it will continue to subsidize the project through the third Community Support Framework. Recent events will inevitably effect that decision, given that the EU has in the past complained over budgetary excesses and delays. So far just 14 percent of the urban, 8 percent of the rural and 5 percent of other areas have been registered. Two and a half million property owners have submitted statements for the rights to 5 million properties, about 15 percent of the estimated total of 33 million properties. There is an obvious delay, even if Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis’s excuse that the project has started from the difficult areas is well-founded. But this is exactly where the fundamental problem lies: From the outset the compilation of the land register has been mapped out on the basis of a very ambitious plan which did not take into account the serious difficulties emerging from the confusing and complicated property situation in Greece. Rather than beginning from the easy areas and then gradually moving to the more difficult ones – and taking advantage of the accumulated experience by doing so – the State has erroneously tried to do everything all at the same time. Therefore, funds were wasted, projects were delayed and the EU is now considering cutting funds. The government should rethink its strategy. There is a colossal need to compile a land register and the effort should not be abandoned merely because Laliotis will leave the Public Works Ministry to become PASOK secretary.

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