Political reactions at prospect of privatization of dominant power utility; union calls strike

Monday, 27 March 2017 22:01
UPD:22:22
Eurokinissi/ΚΑΛΛΙΑΡΑΣ ΘΑΝΑΣΗΣ

The union, Genop-DEI, opposes any sell-off of power producing units to reduce PPC's share of the local electricity market, something that creditors have stipulated in bailout memorandums and want implemented -- particularly the IMF.

Increased speculation in Athens this week that the leftist Greek government will concede to creditors' standing demands for a liberalization of the energy sector, especially in terms of power generation and transmission, is causing major political ripples.

The first full-blown reaction to the prospect is a major strike announced by the union representing most of the workforce for the Public Power Corp., the listed state-run utility that still enjoys a dominant position in the domestic market.

The union, Genop-DEI, opposes any sell-off of power producing units to reduce PPC's share of the local electricity market, something that creditors have stipulated in bailout memorandums and want implemented -- particularly the IMF.

Meanwhile, internal government dissent also emerged, as former energy minister and current interior minister Panos Skourletis penned an article for the left-leaning "Efimerida ton Syntakton" newspaper, spelling out his opposition to the prospect of 40 percent of PPC's units - lignite-fired and hydro-electric plants -- being privatized.

Under the catchphrase of "let's resist the attempted cannibalization of PPC", Skourletis, who politically belongs on the hard left wing of ruling SYRIZA, claimed that creditors' demands are "beyond the boundaries of the agreement", while also criticizing what he called an "attack aimed at PPC's assets; with the aim at these (assets) pass to European and domestic business interests at ridiculously low prices".

Speaking in Athens after a meeting with the relevant energy minister, union president Giorgos Adamidis claimed that lignite-fired units are set for privatization, but not hydro-electric plants. He also maintained that the exact number and location of the units up for sale has not been determined.

On his part, former ND minister Costis Hatzidakis, one of the most prominent pro-market reform lawmakers in the country, reminded that ruling SYRIZA and creditors had agreed back in 2015 that PPC's market share should be rolled back from 95 percent to 50 percent by 2020.

"And this was with a zero financial benefit for the utility and the state; a gratis privatization; a Frankenstein model, one that leads PPC to the brink of bankruptcy," he told an Athens radio station.

Hatzidakis charged that the leftist Greek government is "appearing to heroically resist, but in favor of stagnation, which will certainly lead to PPC's collapse".

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