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Another Greek Resignation: Privatization Head Quits

Yiannis Koukiadis, who headed Greece’s flagging privatization efforts, has had enough and is quitting his post

ATHENS – Little more than a week into his uneasy tripartite coalition government, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ plans to get the Greek economy back on track suffered another blow with the resignation of Yiannis Koukiadis, the head of the country’s privatization fund (TAIPED,) the third high-profile departure of a government official since he took office.
Koukiadis said he was quitting due to personal reasons, but sources told the newspaper Kathimerini that other members of the troubled agency will also step down soon. Greece is under pressure from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to step up privatization of state enterprises and the sale or lease of state-owned properties.
The original goal of raising $62.4 billion was downgraded to only $23.73 billion, but so far only about $3.74 billion has been realized and the whole process was put on hold after the May 6 stalemated elections led to a caretaker government was set in place until the June 17 elections that were narrowly won by Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives. Without enough of the vote to create a government, he had to persuade the PASOK Socialists and Democratic Left party to pledge their Parliamentary support, but neither wanted members placed in his Cabinet.
Samaras’ designated Finance Minister, Vassilis Rapanos, stepped aside after being hospitalized although media reports said he was also unhappy that Samaras had packed his Cabinet with too many political retreads and not enough technocrats. He was immediately replaced by noted economist Yiannis Stournaras, who will face the difficult task of trying to convince the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to give Greece more time to implement more harsh austerity conditions in return for a second bailout of $173 billion. Greece is surviving on a first series of $152 billion in rescue loans, but the attached pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have had Greeks protesting, striking and rioting for two years and brought down the previous government of former PASOK leader and Prime Minister George Papandreou in November of 2011.
Koukiadis’ departure could be more troublesome as Greece’s coalition government has backed the privatization process, although some reservations have been expressed about selling off so-called strategic assets. Executive director Costas Mitropoulos told Kathimerini in a recent interview that the decision to put privatization on hold has harmed the credibility of the fund, which according to the law is independent from the government.
New Deputy Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Vernikos also resigned after being linked to an offshore firm, the second member of the Cabinet to leave as Samaras was preparing to send a team of officials to Brussels to attend a critical meeting of EU leaders where he had hoped to make a case as to why he was reversing his support of the austerity measures and the deal he signed to get Greece more money. Vernikos, a businessman who was one of PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos’s choices for the Cabinet, quit after the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA,) which finished a close second in the elections, pointed out that he was breaking a 2010 law by taking up a ministerial position.
SYRIZA said that it had “nothing personal” against Vernikos but highlighted that the law prohibits politicians from being involved in offshore companies. The leftist party said Vernikos had links to a company in the Marshall Islands. Speaking to SKAI TV after his resignation, Vernikos said he was not aware that his offshore business dealings were incompatible with the job of holding a cabinet position.

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