On issues of housing policy but also on the project of creating a government park on the site of the former PYRKAL, from which at least 40 million will be saved annually, the Minister of State Akis Skertsos mentioned, in his interview on the 1st Program of the ERA.
He began by saying that the government, in a systematic manner, and without much publicity, for 1-1.5 years, has proceeded with the “systematic recording of public real estate, for the first time in post-political history”. It is an issue linked to cheaper housing, explained the Minister of State. The increase in the supply of real estate will bring about a reduction in prices, he added and announced “important announcements by the prime minister at the Thessaloniki International Fair. We have worked on a series of proposals, interventions and policies aimed at improving accessibility, especially for young people to cheaper real estate”. he even intended.
We must draw the good examples from cities abroad with significant tourist traffic, he said, it cannot, after all, “the center of every big city become an endless tourist zone, we must protect the many and different uses, this means a lively, dynamic and democratic center of a big city”, he stressed, insisting that “Athens cannot be a one-themed Disneyland of tourism. And here the discussion must be opened about the conditions under which someone rents an Airbnb”.
In two words one could talk about “a strategic plan with short-term, medium-term and long-term actions”. To the question, what can be in the short term, he answered: “we can and will run many interventions with state aid actions, which will reach the beneficiaries immediately”.
Relocation program of nine ministries
Analyzing then the “ambitious”, as he described it, plan to create a government park, he first pointed out that “it shows the work that is done away from the spotlight”.
But taking the issue from the beginning, “what we have found in the last three years is that the Greek State has very important real estate, but for which it has not done the slightest work for decades in terms of recording, classifying and exploiting it. We found for example that we have 19 ministries which are housed in the basin in 191 buildings and of these, 141 are leased. That is, while it has its own real estate, it rents to house its services at a cost of 60 million per year.”
Consequently, he concluded, the amount is “huge” and calculating that if at least 40 million can be saved, these “can finance important social policies, we can expand the protection net for the vulnerable social strata. Here, housekeeping work must be done , which of course requires time”.
Elaborating further on the future government park, he said that it is “an excellent property of 157 acres in the Municipality of Dafni-Ymittos, 3 kilometers from the center of Athens”, but on the other hand, “a foreign body within the municipality”.
There, according to the government plan, “nine of the 19 ministries that are scattered all over Attica” will be transferred there, as he said giving two examples: “The Ministry of Development is currently divided into 37 buildings all over Athens, the Ministry of Finance in 19 buildings. This is an image of a third-world country,” observed A. Schertz.
Assuring that many public services will continue to operate in the center, he explained, however, that the presence of such services alone is not a solution. The center has been “dying” for some time and then, in the afternoon, he mentioned and underlined that “in the plan we are working on, there will be a great emphasis on attracting multiple uses. The center of Athens must first of all be repopulated”, was the goal he set.
This implies incentives for cheaper housing for young people, who will come to live “in economically and socially withered areas. We have seen in the last 10-15 years a significant deterioration of the center of Athens”.
Through, moreover, the government park project, “approximately 350,000 square meters will be freed up in the City Center”. At the same time, however, “we should also discuss the release of some of the buildings and plots of land so that they can become green spaces, that is, to expand the share of green space in the overall public space”, is another, parallel, goal.
These issues will be raised in the revision of the Regulatory Plan of Athens that is about to be released in the fall, as well as in the special urban planning plan that will emerge as a whole for the relocation of these ministries. It is an overall project in which the Municipalities of Athens, Dafni-Ymitto, scientific bodies and so on participate, he added.
The strategic Environmental Impact Assessment is also in public consultation and the government is awaiting comments from the scientific community and civil society. With a next step, at the beginning of 2023, the tender for the PPP, aimed at the creation of the government park.
Given the opportunity, he also spoke about other “ambitious violations”, such as the one on the southern front, in Elliniko or the planned interventions in OAKA, which will become, as he promised, “a modern sports center utilizing the great Olympic heritage”.
The future of the country
And, in an overall “through this”, all these are “part of the Greece 2.0 plan, the Recovery Fund. In this plan lies, through integrated actions with guaranteed financing, the future of the country. How will we change the functioning of the state and the economy, how we will create a modern, digital, green state, and an economy that will keep pace with the rest of the European economies”.
In another part of the interview, he even spoke of “a silent revolution that unfortunately does not attract the attention of the public”, and which concerns the structures of the economy. “Is it known that currently the Greek economy is much more outward-looking and export-oriented than it was 10-15 years ago?” at the moment the corresponding percentage is at 40%. Another encouraging element is that “we are the only country in Europe that has recorded a 7% increase in flights this year compared to 2019, which was also a record year for Greek tourism. This did not happen by chance,” he emphasized.
Public investments of 80 billion
Opening the next day’s frame for the country, approximately 30-31 billion will be allocated through the Recovery Fund, an additional 22-23 billion through the new NSRF, while there is also the Rural Development Program. In total, “for the next 5 years, public investments amount to 80 billion euros, while at the same time large private investments, as well as smaller ones, have increased”. In conclusion, “Greece is gradually, but with steady steps, changing for the better”.
The interview in the 1st Program closed with the question whether the public sector will be paralyzed in a pre-election year. This will not happen, replied the Minister of State, the government has undertaken, he argued, specific commitments within the context of the Recovery Fund, for the projects to be delivered, but also many reforms, which must be done.