FinMin replies to troika interviews in Sunday press

The government is making use of the country's real estate assets, and not selling off public land, finance minister George Papaconstantinou said on Sunday, stressing that the decisions on what and how are taken in a coordinated fashion by the Greek government and no one else.

Papaconstantinou's statement was prompted by interviews by European Commission Deputy Director General for economic and financial affairs Servaas Deroose, the head of the Commission inspectors in the EU-IMF 'troika' delegation, and IMF European Department deputy director Poul Thomsen, who heads the IMF inspectors in the troika delegation, which appeared in Sunday newspapers.

The finance minister called Deroose's statements "off target, at the least, and definitely inaccurate", and at the same time stressed that the decisions are taken with absolute transparency and with the public interest as the only criterion.

Papaconstantinou further said, characteristically: "The exploitation of the state's real property constitutes the choice of the government. It is a choice that can contribute decisively to speeding up growth but also to reducing the country's currently immense debt. It is a choice that the government is advancing in tandem with the denationalisations program that has been decided by the authoritative government bodies -- with stability, absolute transparency, respect for environmental protection and our cultural heritage, and with the sole criteria being the public interest."

In an interview appearing in the weekly Proto Thema newspaper on Sunday, Deroose said that "you will make denationalisations of 15 billion euros" in the next two years, adding that "the first 5 billion will come from the sale of the former Ellinikon Airport (expanse) and the remaining 10 billion euros from Athens Stock Exchange-listed and non-listed companies", while in the three-year period 2013-2015 "airports, ports and real estate property will be sold, from which 35 billion euros will be collected".

To a question that now is not the best time on the stock exchange for the companies with state holdings, such as the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), Deroose said that those corporations "are profitable and have added value...If we create the proper infrastructures and serious investment banks are hired to act as consultants, we could make a substantial profit", adding that he does not consider it necessary for the state to be a shareholder in the PPC and OTE.

In an interview in Kathimerini appearing in the newspaper's Sunday edition, Thomsen said it is necessary for structural reforms to proceed immediately. He said that although the 2010 target for reducing the deficit to 9.5 percent of GDP was achieved, it would be difficult for the government to achieve the 2011 target of 7.8 percent if structural reforms do not progress speedily. "I am not saying that the program will derail, I anticipate that the March targets will be me, but I see a need arising for decisive moves," he said.

Thomsen further ascertained delays in the denationalisations, adding that when the full extent of the state assets are recorded "by mid-year", then "the sale of land, such as the old airport (Ellinikon)" will go ahead.

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