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The Athens Stock Exchange opened its first session for 2012 with concerns about the Euro-future of Greece

02 January 2012 / 18:01:41  GRReporter
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Victoria Mindova

The most senior financiers in the country conclude that all last chances of Greece will run out by the end of March of this year. This became clear at the opening of the first session of the Athens Stock Exchange for 2012. Some of the most influential figures of the financial system presented their views on the development of the country. Those views can be synthesized in the words of the president of the Union of Greek bankers and president of the National Bank of Greece, Vassilis Rapanos: "The first three months of 2012 will determine whether Greece will remain in the Eurozone or will go 25 years back in time with disastrous consequences for the whole economy."

Rapanos stressed that "Greece's dilemma is whether to remain in the Eurozone poorer, but with prospects, or to get out of it and fall into hellish misery for the next 10-15 years." He said his wish for 2012 is for the political system to understand the seriousness of the current crisis and its representatives to leave their personal ambitions and petty party interests aside and to support the government of Lucas Papademos, in order to save the country.

"I wish for us to successfully pass the first months of 2012. It does not matter whether we see them as positive or negative because they will be marked by uncertainty known in financial markets," said the President and CEO of Athens Stock Exchange Sokratis Lazaridis. In order to alleviate their customers as much as possible, this year the stock exchange will reduce taxes for companies participating in the Greek financial market. "We continue to seek new connections with the international investment community, which currently still covers about 50 percent of the transactions." Lazaridis did not hide the fact that a lot of effort was made to maintain the previously established network of international investors, despite the contraction of financial markets worldwide.

The new Chairman of the Supervisory Committee on stock exchanges Costas Botopoulos defined 2012 as an absolutely unpredictable year in which the first months are crucial. He expressed hope that 2011 will serve as an example for political forces whose mistakes should not be repeated and 2012 will be the last in a series of bad years with negative economic results. According to him Greece has reached public and (hopefully) political maturity, which will mobilize the forces inside the country to find exit from the crisis. "The most important thing now is for everyone to understand that each of us must give the best of themselves in their field, to reach a common goal."

"2011 was the worst year that even we old financiers have ever seen." This is how last year was defined by the Athens Stock Exchange chairman of the board Yakovos Georganas, who also opened the ceremony of the first session. Georganas tried to instil optimism and expressed hope that this year will be better than the one before. In order for this to happen, however, certain prerequisites must be met.

The first one is for the Euro to exist. The debt crisis includes not only Greece, but also Portugal, Ireland and parts of Spain, Italy and even to some extent, France. It is clear to all financiers that the Eurozone will never be as it was during the first 10 years of its existence. They note that a change in the Stability Pact of Europe is a positive step, but the countries of the old continent have a long way to go before being away from the danger of disintegration of the currency zone.

In narrower terms Georganas recognizes that as soon as possible the government must sign the contract for the second financial aid between Greece and the countries of Europe. Also the government must negotiate for the final reduction of the debt held by private investors (PSI), in order to allow the country to move forward. He stressed that creditors have matured regarding the idea that they should bear some of the burden of the crisis and politicians have a responsibility to move the process forward as quickly as possible.

Georganas called the 2012 budget "neat" and it gives a real opportunity to reach a small primary surplus, provided it is strictly adhered to. He believes that tourism and exports can develop more successfully and contribute to economic recovery in the country in 2012. "There are a number of investment projects that can begin this year," stressed the financier. The first project is by the Niarhos group. It provides for investment of half a billion Euros to build a Cultural Centre called "Stavros Niarhos." It includes the new buildings of the National lyrical stage, the National Library, a park and building a foundation house dedicated to the Greek shipping magnate. The second project, which will bring direct private investments, is opening the seven new metro stations in the capital. The third is related to the "Sun" project for the construction of solar farms to produce electricity for export. It could kbe started this year, and other smaller energy projects will probably develop in more advanced stages by the end of 2012 which will also provide new jobs.

Tags: Greece economy budget 2012 stock exchange
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