Troika’s red line on com­pe­ti­tion

Lenders say re­view will not con­clude in Fe­bru­ary un­less OECD ‘tool kit’ to ease reg­u­la­tions is adopted

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The troika has warned Greece that the on­go­ing re­view of its ad­just­ment pro­gram will not be com­pleted in Fe­bru­ary un­less Athens adopts the dozens of rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) for re­mov­ing reg­u­la­tions that dis­tort com­pe­ti­tion.

In an e-mail sent by Greece’s lenders to De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Costis Hatzi­dakis, which has been seen by Kathimerini, the troika says it is un­able to see how the re­view can be con­cluded if the Greek gov­ern­ment does not re­move the bar­ri­ers to com­pe­ti­tion iden­ti­fied by the OECD or pro­vide sat­is­fac­tory ex­pla­na­tions for leav­ing some of the reg­u­la­tions un­changed.

The e-mail ex­presses of­fi­cials’ “con­cern” about re­ports that sug­gest the gov­ern­ment is en­coun­ter­ing op­po­si­tion to its ef­forts to im­ple­ment the OECD’s so-called tool kit. The troika says that th­ese re­forms are of “cen­tral im­por­tance” to im­prov­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Greek busi­nesses, re­duc­ing prices for lo­cal con­sumers and cre­at­ing jobs. The coun­try’s lenders also note that adop­tion of the OECD’s rec­om­men­da­tions would send an “im­por­tant mes­sage” about the gov­ern­ment’s ap­petite for im­ple­ment­ing struc­tural re­forms.

Af­ter an 11-month study, the OECD iden­ti­fied in Novem­ber 555 reg­u­la­tory re­stric­tions which it says un­der­mine com­pe­ti­tion. The Paris­based or­ga­ni­za­tion made 329 rec­om­men­da­tions on le­gal pro­vi­sions that should be amended or re­pealed. The OECD es­ti­mates the ben­e­fit to the Greek econ­omy would be around 5.2 bil­lion eu­ros, or roughly 2.5 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, as a re­sult of “in­creased pur­chas­ing power for con­sumers and ef­fi­ciency gains for com­pa­nies.”

Some of th­ese pro­pos­als, though, are en- coun­ter­ing op­po­si­tion within gov­ern­ment, let alone be­yond the con­fines of the coali­tion. PASOK and Health Min­is­ter Ado­nis Ge­or­giadis op­poses al­low­ing su­per mar­kets to sell non­pre­scrip­tion medicines. Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Athana­sios Tsaf­taris is against the idea of ex­tend­ing the per­mis­si­ble shelf-life of fresh milk, ar­gu­ing that this would al­low cheaper im­ports to flood the Greek mar­ket.

“Is a sav­ing of five to 10 cents a day for a four-mem­ber fam­ily worth send­ing Greece’s dairy farm­ers into ex­tinc­tion?” he won­dered while ad­dress­ing Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

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