Minister: Privatizations are Greece's top priority

Associated Press
Leader of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party Nikolaos Michaloliakos speaks at the Parliament in Athens, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's three-party coalition government will try to get the economy out of its deep recession by encouraging private investment and making privatizations its "highest priority," finance minister Yannis Stournaras said Saturday.

"The privatization program aims at attracting important international capital that will be invested mainly in property development and infrastructure," Stournaras told parliament on the second day of the debate on the new government's policy platform.

He said the government plans to give priority to 28 privatizations, including the state natural gas, water and betting companies, the development of the former Athens airport, other airports, yacht marinas, the state railways and the sale and leaseback of 28 state properties. The privatization of Public Power Corporation will come at a later stage, Stournaras said.

Earlier, the leader of Greece's main opposition party accused the country's three-party coalition government of wanting to sell Greece's resources and public companies on the cheap.

"The prime minister's policy statement was nothing more than a 'for sale sign' put on Greece," Alexis Tsipras, head of the Coalition of the Radical Left party, known as Syriza, told Parliament. He said he was especially warning those who want to "grab state property on the cheap." He added would-be buyers of state property might lose all their money and face criminal proceedings.

Tsipras proposed a moratorium on the payment of Greece's debt until the country, mired in a deep recession, returns to growth. He predicts his party will soon come to power because the coalition government will fail. When it comes to government, he said, it would fix finances by taxing the rich and going after tax evaders.

Evangelos Venizelos, the socialist leader and a former finance minister, whose party is part of the coalition, ripped into Tsipras' payments moratorium proposal, saying this was tantamount to the country declaring bankruptcy.

"The country can take no more demagoguery," he said.

The newly-elected parliament will stage a vote of confidence on the government at midnight Sunday.

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