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Ομιλία της Υπουργού Οικονομίας, Ανταγωνιστικότητας και Ναυτιλίας, Λούκας Τ. Κατσέλη, στο ναυτιλιακό συνέδριο, που διοργάνωσε η Capital Link στην Αθήνα, με θέμα: « Πρόσβαση σε κεφάλαια σήμερα – Αναμένοντας την ανάκαμψη»

Τρίτη, 23 Φεβρουαρίου 2010

Τη σύσταση του Ελληνικού Ταμείου Ανάπτυξης ανακοίνωσε η Υπουργός Οικονομίας, Ανταγωνιστικότητας και Ναυτιλίας, Λούκα Τ. Κατσέλη, μιλώντας σήμερα στο συνέδριο, που διοργάνωσε η Capital Link στην Αθήνα, με θέμα: « Πρόσβαση σε κεφάλαια σήμερα – Αναμένοντας την ανάκαμψη». Όπως ανέφερε η Υπουργός: « Μέσω  του  Ελληνικού Ταμείου Ανάπτυξης, επενδυτικά  σχέδια στις ανανεώσιμες πηγές ενέργειας, στις υποδομές, στον τουρισμό και στην υψηλή τεχνολογία θα χρηματοδοτηθούν μέσα από ένα ευρύ φάσμα τίτλων του Ελληνικού Ταμείου Ανάπτυξης, όπου περιλαμβάνονται από μεγάλου όγκου εκδόσεις χρεογράφων αναφοράς μέχρι ιδιωτικές τοποθετήσεις και εκδόσεις εμπορικών χρεογράφων».

Ακολουθεί  το πλήρες κείμενο της ομιλίας στα αγγλικά.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured and delighted to address such a distinguished audience attending the Capital Link Greek Shipping Forum. I would like to congratulate the organizer, Nicolas Bornozis and Capital Link, for his initiative to put together representatives of the shipping and financial communities to address collectively the challenge of accessing capital in today’s markets so as to position themselves for the rebound.

The convening of this conference could not be more timely.

Global growth prospects remain at best uncertain as a consequence of the financial crisis. Trade volume has shrunk and trade patterns are changing. Financial markets continue to be in turmoil. The liquidity squeeze persists in many markets and debt is becoming scarcer and more expensive. At the same time, against piracy pose new concerns while climate change and pressing needs to protect the environment enhance financial needs.

These challenges concern us all: Governments and private business.

Over the last year, the shipping industry has felt the effect of the slowdown in world trade and reduced demand for shipping services.

Lately, the industry faces the additional problem created by the collapse of the global debt market as well as the exit of many equity investors from shipping.

Similarly, many Governments, including our own, are facing the dual challenge to cope with the slowdown in economic activity at the same time that the cost of capital in international markets is rising. In both cases, prudent financial management is needed, coupled with the adoption of a medium term strategy for diversification, growth and competitiveness.

How best to address this dual challenge is at the core of both the Government’s and the Shipping community’s policy agendas.

Let me address each one separately.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greece, as you know, is facing a triple challenge: to reduce within a three year period its excessive budget deficit from 12,7% of GDP in 2009 to under 3% in 2012 and thus stabilize and subsequently reduce its growing debt to GDP ratio; secondly improve competitiveness through appropriate restructuring and new Greenfield investment. Priorities include the energy sector, especially renewable energy in wind, PV, geothermal, hydro etc, the tourism and cultural sectors, environmental management, the ICT and BIO sectors where Greece is a leader in mobile penetration, major infrastructure projects and other business services including logistics, etc.

Foreign direct investment in these and other areas is very much welcomed. This can be supported by both available grants and/ or tax benefits through the Investment law, Public Private Partnership and the  effective utilization of European Community structural funds amounting to 26 billion Euros core spanning the period 2007 – 2013; thirdly cut down on all red tape and a major and long-overdue regulatory reform to cut down the cost of doing business and support rather than stifle entrepreneurship as well as promote competition in both commodity, capital and labour markets.

We are determined to move on all three fronts and demonstrate measurable positive results within a year. The specific measures that we are implementing are part of the Stability and Growth Program, which has been submitted and approved by the European Commission early this month.

Through substantial primary expenditures reduction and permanent measures to enhance revenues and fight tax evasion, the general government deficit for 2010 is expected to be reduced by 4 percentage points to 8,7% of GDP. The Hellenic Statistical Service is becoming an independent body. Public Finance Management is being overhauled and monitored on a monthly basis. The operation of a Unified Payment System will rationalize wage expenditures for all public servants. A comprehensive reform of taxation including a drastic simplification and elimination of exemptions, along with the introduction of a unified tax scale and a stable and transparent tax system will be completed within this year.

There is no doubt that addressing macroeconomic imbalances and restoring fiscal discipline is a top priority. It is a necessary condition for restoring credibility and stability in financial markets so that the country can finance, at a relatively low cost, its growth and development. Nevertheless, it is not a sufficient condition.

The major challenge for the country is to enhance its productive base and competitive advantage in global markets; to increase productivity and competitiveness, to exploit its untapped potential and unexploited resources, to produce new wealth and secure jobs as well as a better standard of living for its citizens and for the young generation which aspires to a better future. This is the main challenge for policy making. This is my biggest challenge as Minister of the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping.

For this reason we are implementing in 2010 an ambitious public investment program totaling 10,3billion Euros, supported by both national EU community structural funds.

At the same time we are pursuing a major regulatory reform to simplify procedures for start–ups, licensing and operation of firms thus supporting entrepreneurship. The Bill for business start-ups is under preparation and will be submitted in Parliament in the next few weeks. By using an electronic registry, supported by the appropriate software and process reengineering, in close collaboration with Business Chambers of the time required to open up a business in Greece will be reduced from 38 days to 1 day and the relative steps from 15 to 1.

Simplifying drastically licensing procedures will be similarly completed by June. Finally, we are mobilizing additional funding through PPPs and the European Investment Bank as well as other sovereign and private wealth and equity funds.

This past weekend I visited Abu Dhabi to explore the governments’ willingness to participate as partners and equity investors in our initiative to set up a Hellenic Development Fund. I am happy to report that there was genuine interest in this endeavor. Through HDF, investment projects in renewable energy, infrastructure, tourism on ICT in Greece and the wider region will be funded through a wide range of HDF securities, from large volume benchmark bonds to private placements and commercial paper programs.

Implementation of this ambitious agenda however needs some time: a breathing space for the Government to implement the adopted measures and thus regain credibility and trust at home and abroad.

The recent speculative attacks on Greek bonds have raised spreads to such an extent that they have undermined these efforts. It is more important than ever therefore for us to take all necessary measures to stabilize market expectations implement our submitted Stability and Growth Program. At the same time however, we need the active support of Euro zone member countries and institutions. Because, at the end of the day, the current Greek crisis is also a test for the resilience of Euro -zone institutions to mitigate asymmetric shocks and to manage effectively speculative attacks on any single member country.

To deal with uncertainty and market volatility, a stable and effective framework of rules and regulations is needed. This is a well known fact to the Shipping Community which has often turned to the IMO for support and guidance. International collaboration and solidarity is a prerequisite for addressing common challenges that cannot be easily resolved at the enterprise level.

It is worth mentioning here such important IMO initiatives as the protection and preservation of the marine environment, maritime safety, the promotion of security and ship’s efficiency standards, the protection of vital sea lanes from piracy and its important “Go to Sea!” campaign to attract new entrants to the shipping industry.

Greece, representing one of the leading maritime nations in the world, attaches great importance and has supported fully these global initiatives. I would venture to say that more effective international cooperation to safeguard a stable, well regulated framework for international finance is sorely needed today. The costs from financial turbulence are often too high to be borne by a single company or a single country.

The Greek Shipping Sector has proven in the past that it knows how to survive a crisis and return to the forefront of the international economic scene with even higher dynamism. I am convinced that it will do so once again. On our part, we are committed to support the industry’s adjustment process which has already been impressive. Greek Shipping has expanded in both tonnage and ship numbers while it has improved in sophistication tremendously. Its leading position in the world and the permanent position of the Greek flag in the White List of the Paris Memorandum on Port State Control make every Greek proud. Under many flags, the Greek owned fleet has seen its average age drop by half and this trend is expected to continue during the next two years.

On the other hand, within a volatile economic and financial environment, old concerns require a fresh look.

One such issue relates to the insufficient number of young people who choose shipping as a carrier. Despite high remuneration levels and vastly improved living conditions aboard compared to fifteen years ago recruitment campaigns have had limited success. We will have to take a new, hard look at the reasons why this happens and devise appropriate measures and incentives to reverse this trend.

Upgrading training in the maritime academies is also a top priority.

Thirdly, it is a well known fact that diligence, experience and drive, found in Greek Officers is hard to match worldwide. We are concerned however that, an increasing number of ship officers leave the profession early. Because the cost of producing an STCW certified ship officer today is considerable, early departures from ship service place a big burden on the cost structure especially in the tanker and gas carrier sectors. I have already commissioned a study on the subject with a view towards introducing appropriate measures to reverse this trend.

Finally, we are committed to improve the competitiveness of our ports by making them integrated service hubs, financed through PPPs and to upgrade sea – tourism and cruise services through appropriate regulatory changes and investment activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The decision to upgrade the status of the former Ministry of Merchant Marine and make it an integral part of the newly created Ministry, which I have the honor to head, reflects the fundamental importance that the new Government attributes to Greek Shipping, its accomplishments and its contribution to the national economy.

None of the above can be achieved if we do not strengthen the collaboration between enterprises, financial institutions and Governments. We all find ourselves in the same boat.

Let us explore creative ways to reduce uncertainty and unnecessary volatility in financial markets; let us explore innovative ways to pursue jointly profitable investment opportunities; let us create the basis for long lasting partnerships for growth and development.

I wish every success to your deliberations and I am looking forward to receiving the conclusions of this important Forum.

Thank you very much for your attention.



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