|Monday, 23 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-07-26
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 EU-IMF experts begin meetings in AthensA team of inspectors of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) "troika" held its first meetings in Athens on Monday morning with finance minister George Papaconstantinou and afterwards with the head of the finance ministry's Council of Economic Experts George Zanias.
The troika is in Athens for the first full review of the country's economic stability program since the activation of the support mechanism for the Greek economy. The troika will draw up a report on the basis of which a second tranche of the economic aid package for the Greek economy will be disbursed.
The EU-IMF inspectors are slated to complete their work here on August 6, after which the Commission will issue its report in mid-August and the IMF in late August, to enable release of the 9 billion euros second tranche of the support loan to Greece by mid-September.
The troika is slated to hold a succession of meetings on Wednesday with several ministers, including Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping minister Louka Katseli, Employment and Social Security minister Andreas Loverdos, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas, Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, while it will also visit the Bank of Greece (BoG), the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the Public Debt Management Organisation and the finance ministry's financial crimes unit (SDOE).
The financial situation in the DEKO (public utilities and organisations), the debt-ridden state hospitals, local government organisations and social security/pension funds will come under the inspectors' microscope, while the IMF believes that large margins exist for further saving of resources in those sectors. According to an IMF report, in the first five months of the year alone, hospital and funds' expenditures overshot the target by 1.5 billion euros.
The troika will also be briefed on the fiscal finances, with emphasis on the drastic reduction of the deficit by 45.4 percent in the first half of the year, was was substantially above the 39.5 percent target for the entire year, and also on the drastic curtailment of expenditures in the same period that has also substantially exceeded the target for the year. As for a substantial shortfall in revenues, the finance ministry has stressed that there will be no divergence from the targets given that the revenues from the increases in VAT and special consumer taxes have not yet entered the state coffers.
The agenda of talks with the Greek authorities also includes deregulation of the energy market, the opening up of the so-called 'closed' professions, accelerating absorption of NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) funds and restructuring of the banking system.
An interim report in mid-July by the IMF found the Greek stability program to be "broadly on track", with the Greek authorities having made considerable progress in putting public finances on a sustainable path and having implemented major reforms ahead of schedule.
 Queues at petrol stationsConsumers fearing petrol shortages as a result of a truck owners' strike starting at midnight queued up to fill their cars with petrol on Sunday afternoon, while some petrol stations had already run dry.
The queues continued on Monday, with even longer lines, as the truckers began an indefinite strike in protest against a draft bill to open up the road freight market, including that of fuel, that is currently served only by licenced vehicles.
It is expected to cause serious shortages of goods on the market, while the first problems were apparent on Sunday as huge lines formed outside petrol stations, with motorists trying to stock up on petrol before they depart for their summer holidays.
Coming at the peak of the tourist season, the strike is a heavy blow to struggling tourist enterprises, which have so far seen their turnover reduced compared to last year's levels and had pinned their hopes on the July-August period to raise their sales.
The strike may even affect ferry lines, since truck owners have said they will not make an exception for ships.
Apart from fuel, shortages in basic consumer goods may also start to appear in the coming week.
Infrastructure, Networks and Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas is due to hold a press conference on Monday morning to answer questions on both the truck owners' strike and a "work-to-rule" protest by air traffic controllers that is expected to cause flight delays. Both groups are protesting against draft bills recently unveiled by his ministry.
The owners of state-licensed road freight vehicles moved planned strike action originally scheduled to start on August 27 forward to midnight Sunday, after the government announced planned legislation to open up the currently closed road freight market.
 Trade deficit down 28.2pct in MayGreece's trade balance deficit fell by 28.2 percent in May, while the deficit for the first five months of the year dropped by 23.9 percent, according to provisional figures released on Monday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
The total value of imports-arrivals in May amounted to 2872.8 million euros (3599.1 million dollars) in comparison with 3538.2 million euros (4815.2 million dollars) in May 2009, recording a drop of 18.8%. The total value of imports-arrivals excluding oil products recorded a drop of 306.7 million euros or 10.3% in comparison with the corresponding month of 2009.
The total value of exports-dispatches in May amounted to 1293.5 million euros (1630.4 million dollars) in comparison with 1340.2 million euros (1834.9 million dollars) in May 2009, recording a drop of 3.5%. The total value of exports-dispatches excluding the oil products recorded a decrease 108.5 million euros or 8.6% in comparison with the corresponding month of 2009.
The deficit of the trade balance in May amounted to 1579.3 million euros (1968.7 million dollars) in comparison with 2198.0 million euros (2980.3 million dollars) in May 2009 recording a drop of 28.2%. Excluding the oil products the deficit of the trade balance recorded a decrease of 198.2 million euros or 11.5% in comparison with the corresponding month of the year 2009.
 Fires in Crete, AchaiaA wildfire was raging Monday in the Handra region of Lefki, in Siteia prefecture on the island of Crete, while two fires that were burning near Patras have been contained.
A fire broke out late Sunday in the Handra region of Lefki, in Siteia prefecture on the island of Crete.
According to the Fire Brigade, a team of 20 firefighters with five fire engines, assisted by a foot division and a water-dropping helicopter, were battling the blaze, which was burning in a rocky area with low shrubbery.
Meanwhile, two fires that broke out earlier on Sunday in the areas of Kastritsi and Platani, near the western port city of Patras, Achaia prefecture, have been contained, while a strong team of firefighters remain at both spots as it is feared that high winds in the area may cause flare-ups.
The Achaia fires have burned tens of acres of forest and farm expanses and crops.
 Rise at ASE openingEquity prices were rising at the opening of trade on Monday on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), with the basic share price index up 0.31 percent, standing at 1,596.07 points at 11:15 am, and turnover at 20.306 million euros.
Individual sector indices were moving mostly upward, with the biggest gains in Travel & Recreation, up 2.42 percent; and Telecoms, up 1.85 percent.
The biggest losses were in Health, down 0.79 percent; and Industrial Products, down 0.75 percent.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks was up 1.08 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index was up 0.17 percent, and the FTSE/ASE-80 small cap index was up 0.27 percent.
Of the stocks traded, 50 were up, 22 were down, and 22 were unchanged.
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