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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-09-25

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Fiscal deficit to drop below 3.0% of GDP by end-2006, Greece tells IMF
  • [02] Engineers to hear charges in fatal Santorini roof collapse
  • [03] Greece back on the global tourism map, minister says

  • [01] Fiscal deficit to drop below 3.0% of GDP by end-2006, Greece tells IMF

    Greece has repeated its pledge of lowering the fiscal deficit to below 3.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2006 in order to meet a key European Union debt-control requirement.

    "The government is committed to correcting the excessive deficit by end-2006 through expenditure restraint in the public sector, measures to contain borrowing by public enterprises and entities, a broadening of the tax base and systematic efforts to tackle tax evasion," Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in the US capital.

    "The target for 2006 is to further reduce the deficit to 2.8% of GDP," Alogoskoufis told an annual general assembly meeting of the International Fund (IMF) and World Bank at the weekend.

    Greeceās economic growth was exceptionally strong in 2004, underpinned by low interest rates and strong construction activity associated with the Athens Olympic Games. Labor market conditions improved as the unemployment rate dropped by almost a full percentage point to 10.4% in the first quarter of 2005; but inflation remained above the euro-area average, thus gradually eroding competitiveness, he noted during the joint AGM.

    "Growth is expected to remain robust, at 3.6% in 2005 and rise slightly in 2006, despite the high oil prices and weak economic activity in the eurozone. This robust growth performance, well above the euro-area average, is driven by private consumption and investment, exports and tourism. Structural reforms in product and labor markets underlie this performance," the minister said.

    Fiscal consolidation remained one of the governmentās key priorities. A fiscal audit launched in March 2004 resulted in upward revisions of the general government

    deficit and debt for the period 1997-2004; and the revisions have led to an increase in transparency that provides a solid basis for assessing the fiscal stance. Significant progress has been achieved in 2005, with the deficit of the general government set to decline from above 6% of GDP in 2004 to 3.6% in 2005, Alogoskoufis noted.

    In parallel with fiscal consolidation, the Greek government is implementing a wide-ranging agenda of structural reforms, to help increase private investment, employment and potential growth. The agenda includes an acceleration of the privatization process, a new legal framework for joint ventures between the state and public sectors, and reforms to increase flexibility in the labor market and in retail shopping hours.

    "We are also pursuing efforts to improve the competitiveness of the Greek economy by promoting competition, reducing administrative barriers, and cutting corporate taxes while improving tax administration," Alogoskoufis noted.

    "The key to strong economic performance in an environment of intense global competition is downsizing the state sector, building strong institutions, removing

    obstacles to the efficient allocation of resources and tackling poverty. The pursuit of these objectives is greatly facilitated by international and regional policy coordination," he said.

    He welcomed the IMF's lending facilities and global, regional and country surveillance, as well as the World Bankās country programs and lending policies as instrumental in the pursuit of the government's objectives; and praised the IMF's medium-term strategy to streamline surveillance and increase focus on the most pressing macroeconomic issues arising from globalization.

    "We also welcome the Bankās initiatives to reduce global poverty, and strongly support the Bankās continuing presence in Southeastern Europe.We also fully endorse the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the recent G-8 initiative for debt cancellation of eligible countries," the minister concluded.

    [02] Engineers to hear charges in fatal Santorini roof collapse

    Three engineers involved in construction of a steel roof over an archaeological site in Santorini that collapsed killing a Briton are to appear before a public prosecutor, island police said on Sunday.

    Charges are to be brought by a prosecutor on the island of Naxos against another three engineers from the consortium that designed and built the roof; and two engineers working for the state's archaeological service on the project in Akrotiri, a later Minoan site and key tourist attraction.

    Seriously injured were two tourists from the USA, two from Slovakia, and one from Germany. A British woman identified as a friend of the UK national was released from Santorini medical centre on Saturday after suffering injuries and shock; and a Greek visitor sustained light injuries.

    On completion of preliminary enquiries, Santorini police escorted the three arrested engineers to Naxos, who maintain their innocence, officials said. Fifty three people gave evidence in the first stage of investigations.

    On Friday, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis visited the scene of the accident, and expressed grief at the loss of life and injury.

    Tatoulis ordered creation of an investigating committee comprising ministry officials, engineers from the National Technical University, and members of the Technical Chamber of Greece.

    The roof was built by a consortium whose members were J&P Ioannou Paraskevaidis (Greece), Avax Group, Gnomon, and Impregilo SpA. The group, which won an international tender in 1999, also supplied detailed engineering for the project on the basis of an existing preliminary study.

    Members of the government and the opposition across the political spectrum sent their condolences after the accident.

    [03] Greece back on the global tourism map, minister says

    Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said at the weekend that Greece was back on the global tourism map.

    Opening a dance and theatre performance at the ancient temple of Poseidon in Sounion to mark World Tourism Day, the minister noted that the market was rising in Greece.

    "Greece is determined to transform the legacy of the Athens 2004 Olympics into concrete benefits for its tourist economy," he said.

    Attending the event on Saturday was the president of the World Tourism Council, Jean-Claude Baumgarden.


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