Politics: Gov't announces extensive plan to immediately kick-start privatisations, reforms

The Greek government on Tuesday evening cited an urgent plan of immediate privatisations and widespread reforms in both the country's cavernous public sector and in the domestic labour market, promising to overcome foot-dragging and to implement measures in full.

Speaking during a televised address carried by most prime time newscasts, government vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos ticked off assets for immediate sale, while he promised that the government will abolish and merge public sector entities, expand the labour reserve measure in the wider public sector and adopt a unified pay scale (towards the lower end), along with liberalising the private sector labour market and opening up so-called "closed" professions and occupations. All of measures aim to ensure the release of the sixth tranche, worth eight billion euros, of an EU-ECB-IMF loan package, and meet provisions in the Mid-term Fiscal Framework Strategy agreed to between the Greek government and the EU-ECB-IMF "troika".

Venizelos spoke immediately after a Cabinet meeting, noting that an inter-ministerial privatisations commission on Wednesday will transfer several major state assets to the Public Property Exploitation Fund, so that privatisation procedures can begin immediately.
Venizelos said privatisations will include OPAP, the state's betting pools monopoly, its share in the Athens International Airport, the natgas provider DE.PA, the Hellenic Petroleum (EL.PE) petro-chemical group and the sale-and-lease back of office space housing state-run and affiliated entities.
Venizelos said the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, approved the plan's details.
Specifically, Venizelos said the Cabinet agreed to speed up privatisations -- aimed to raise 5.0 billion euros by the end of the year -- and to draft plan for a new tax system to curb widespread tax evasion in the country.
The Finance minister added that the announced structural reforms were an internal necessity of the country and their implementation sends a message to Greek citizens, the market and the institutional partners. Venizelos also called for the mobilisation of the country's productive forces. 

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