Pres­sure builds for for­eign man­ager to over­see as­set sales

Kathimerini English - - Business & Finance - sbouras@ekathimerini.com BY STE­LIOS BOURAS

Just days af­ter the gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to get its stalled pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­gram mov­ing, pres­sure is mount­ing on Greece to pro­vide for­eign man­agers with a larger role in the un­pop­u­lar plan to sell off state as­sets.

The Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund have said that any fur­ther aid given to Greece will be pro­vided on the con­di­tion that the coun­try speeds up its as­set sale pro­gram, which aims at rais­ing 50 bil­lion eu­ros by 2015, to pay down debt.

Af­ter in­creas­ing tar­geted pri­va­ti­za­tion rev­enues in Fe­bru­ary, lit­tle had been done as the rul­ing So­cial­ists dodge clashes with pow­er­ful union groups fiercely op­pos­ing sell-offs and pos­si­ble job cuts.

The Fi­nance Min­istry out­lined a more de­tailed pri­va­ti­za­tion agenda ear­lier this week and the set­ting up of a sov­er­eign wealth fund com­posed of state as­sets to ac­cel­er­ate the process, with­out pro­vid­ing fur­ther de­tails.

Frus­trated at the lack of ac­tion on a rev­enue raiser that could ease Greece’s debt woes, EU lead­ers have been push­ing for in­ter­na­tional over­sight of this fund by Brus­sels, the IMF or pos­si­bly also the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank.

Kevin Feather­stone, di­rec­tor of the Hel­lenic Ob­ser­va­tory at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, said that by ap­point­ing a “for­eigner,” there’s plenty of scope for pop­ulist at­tacks about “im­pe­rial pow­ers” but there is also a pos­i­tive side.

“If the for­eigner failed to de­liver as much pri­va­ti­za­tion as sought by the troika [as the team of of­fi­cials from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the IMF and the ECB are known], then the crit­i­cism could not be di­rected at ‘awk­ward’ or ‘lethar­gic’ Greeks,” he told Kathimerini English Edi­tion.

“In other words, it might be a good tac­ti­cal ploy be­tween Athens and the troika.”

The is­sue is cer­tain to split pub­lic opin­ion, even though re­cent sur­veys show that most Greeks agree with pri­va­tiz­ing as­sets.

Min­is­ter of State Haris Paboukis told Reuters re­cently that he was cau­tious about any ex­ter­nal in­volve­ment, ques­tion­ing whether hand­ing con­trol of Greek com­pa­nies to for­eign man­agers is right when they “have no knowl­edge of their man­age­ment, or of how to deal with so­cial or po­lit­i­cal is­sues.”

A cus­tomer

leaves a branch of Hel­lenic Post­bank, which is in­cluded in Greece’s pri

va­ti­za­tion plans along with OTE tele­com. Yes­ter­day, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con

stanti­nou sent a letter to Deutsche Telekom on sell­ing a fur­ther OTE

stake.

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