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State sell-off

May 24, 2011

Greek politicians have agreed to press ahead with an unprecedented program of privatization to meet the requirements of the country's multibillion bailout package. Ports and airports are among the assets to be sold.

Euro coins and a Greek flag
The port of Piraeus is one asset going up for saleImage: fotolia

Greece has pledged to press ahead with a radical privatization plan in an effort to help reduce its high level of debt.

Prime Minister George Papandreou announced an immediate sale of state assets on Monday evening, including its shares in the telecom operator OTE and the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

Following a cabinet meeting, Papandreou announced 1.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in savings along with the privatization measures.

"Last year, through our decisions and the sacrifices of the Greek people, we avoided bankruptcy," Papandreou was reported by the news agency ANA as having said to his ministers.

"Now we take the necessary decisions to avoid the danger once and for all, and to change the country," read his statement.

Extensive list of assets

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
Papandreou said tough decisions were necessaryImage: AP

The Greek state has a 16-percent stake left in OTE, the largest shareholder being German telecommunications firm Deutsche Telekom.

Other assets up for sale include Hellenic Postbank - one of Greece's major lenders - the Thessalonki water company, gas company DEPA and the train operator Trainose. The exact contents of the list for privatization have yet to be finalized with the Greek Finance Ministry.

In 2012 and 2013, the government is also set to sell off interests in airports, lottery operator OPAP, as well as regional ports and highways.

Greece has been urged to press ahead with a 50-billion-euro program of privatization as part of the conditions to smooth the way for a loan instalment of 12 billion euros.

Audit enters third week

A quarterly audit of Greek finances by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union has yet to approve the release of the additional 12 billion euros in funding for Athens. The audit is heading into an unprecedented third week.

Athens last year appealed to the three institutions for a 110-billion-euro loan to save it from bankruptcy.

Further austerity measures agreed at the cabinet meeting include new consumer tax increases and fresh public sector spending cuts.

Additional measures may also include a halving of the current 12,000 euro tax exemption for low earners as well as a one-off levy on incomes of more than 80,000 euros.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler