Greece must boost competitiveness to grow: central banker

Reuters

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece must move faster on reform to regain competitiveness and create the prospects for growth, the chief of Greece's central bank said in an interview on Sunday.

"If the competitiveness lost is not quickly regained growth will be delayed," George Provopoulos, also a European Central Bank (ECB) governing council member, told Sunday Vima newspaper.

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"To convince markets we need a robust restart of efforts, a new more decisive drive for reforms in the public sector and for structural reforms that will improve competitiveness substantially and create favorable conditions for growth."

Greece is implementing tough austerity measures and structural reforms in exchange for a 110 billion euro ($155.4 billion) bailout from the EU and the IMF, but is struggling to meet its fiscal consolidation targets.

The debt-choked country's 230 billion euro economy, in its third straight year of recession, is expected to contract 3 percent this year after a 4.5 percent slump in 2010.

In these adverse conditions, Greek lenders still face significant challenges, Provopoulos said, adding that banks will need to adjust their business plans and become less dependent on ECB funding.

Greek banks are heavily reliant on ECB funding for liquidity, as access to wholesale funding remains mostly shut because of wider sovereign debt concerns.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou)