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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-11-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 19 November 2010 Issue No: 3649
 Finmin: no slowdown in fiscal consolidationIn a press conference about the draft budget for 2011 on Thursday, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou stressed that it was a "difficult" budget that would continue fiscal consolidation measures and whose aim was to allow Greece to borrow on international markets from 2011. The sooner confidence was restored and markets opened, the sooner growth would be restored, he added.
The minister also noted that this was the first budget that sought to apply fiscal management to the whole of general government spending.
Papaconstantinou emphasised that the basic starting point for the new budget was the major revision of Greece's 2010 deficit and debt by Eurostat. The minister pointed out that the ministry's figures for the deficit had leaped from 10 billion euros in 2003 to 36.2 billlion euros in 2009, while the public debt had shot up from 168 billion euros in 2003 to 298 billion euros in 2009.
According to the minister, this development concerning the debt was the reason why he had not asked the reduction of the deficit to be spread over more than one year but chose to achieve the whole of the fiscal consolidation within 2011.
Papaconstantinou noted that the budget provided for cost-cutting and revenue-raising measures amounting to 14.3 billion euro and that these would lead to a net reduction of the deficit by five billion euro. At the same time, the economy was forecast to shrink by 4.2 percent in 2010 and 3 percent in 2011.
He explained that the 9 billion euro difference between the sum of the envisioned measures and the final reduction of the deficit was 'lost' as a result of the forecast recession (leading to a reduction in revenues), an automatic increase in the cost of salaries and pensions and additional spending of 1.7 billion euros paid on interest.
The minister said that the new budget contained three types of measures that had all been agreed with the EU-IMF troika. They included the measures already taken in 2010 that would also have an impact in 2011, those already envisaged under the Memorandum and new measures.
He highlighted measures designed to boost growth, such as lower taxation on business profits that were reinvested, from 24 percent to 20 percent, and a two-year postponement of a measure to require buyers to name the source of income used to buy a first home.
According to Papaconstantinou, the new cost-cutting measures within the budget would take place on five fronts and mostly affected the "hard core" public sector, with crackdowns on tax evasion, overhaul of public utilities, social insurance funds and the health sector.
He announced that the complete framework for tackling tax evasion will be unveiled next week and also revealed plans for the merger or abolition of some 100 tax offices and customs offices as part of the drive for a more efficient state sector using fewer resources.
Also to be unveiled before the end of the year are the government's envisaged privatisations and plans for exploiting state real property. Concerning state-run banks, the minister said that the government was currently negotiating with the EU-IMF troika on the handling of specific issues, such as a share capital increase and restructuring plan for ATEBank.
Papaconstantinou noted, however, that the Greek banking system had taken a number of healthy steps in recent months and was starting to overcome its problems.
Other measures are a bill on opening closed professions that will be ready by the end of the year.
The overhaul of state enterprises and public utilities will be carried out on a case by case basis and focus on cutting payroll costs (in five the payroll cost exceeds revenues) and exploiting their assets. During 2011, payroll costs for public enterprises as a whole are expected to be reduced by 24.25 percent relative to 2010, borrowing to be reduced by 74.36 percent and investments will be reduced by 52.24 percent, Papacon-stantinou said.
The minister repeated that the government was not planning dismissals and that dismissals had not been demanded by the EU-IMF troika.
"We will exhaust all alternative solutions, trying to protect employees and not to make them disappear," he stressed, while clarifying that the contracts of some 10,000 state-sector temporary workers will not be renewed.
During the press conference he announced that the government would introduce the uniform public sector salary scale within 2011 and had begun talks on this with the civil servants' union federation ADEDY.
Papaconstantinou finally announced plans to cut large-family benefits, currently amounting to 800 million euro a year, by 150 million euro through the introduction of income criteria but ruled out any reduction in unemployment benefit (also to be linked to income criteria from 2012) or increase the three-euro hospital outpatient clinic fee.
 The 2011 budget: spending cuts and revenuesA reduction of the public deficit to 7.4 percent of GDP is envisaged in the draft 2011 budget tabled by the Greek government on Thursday, via a fiscal consolidation programme of spending cuts and higher revenues amounting to 14.3 billion euro.
Measures taken by the government in 2010 plus new measures in 2011 are seen increasing state revenues by 7.83 billion euro, while action to cut costs is expected to yield savings of 6.5 billion euros.
The measures raising revenues include the 2010 measures for higher special taxes on tobacco, cigarettes and fuel, higher VAT rates and the 'maintenance fines' imposed for ubiquitous building permit violations in Greek buildings (projected to raise 1.5 billion euro). A further 4.05 billion euro are expected to be raised through additional measures in 2011.
The new measures in 2011 include an increase in the lower VAT brackets - from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent and 11 percent to 13 percent - that is expected to yield an additional 800 million euro in taxes, offset by a 250 million euro reduction in tax revenues caused by moving tourism services and pharmaceuticals to the lower 6.5 percent VAT rate.
A further 600 million euro is expected to enter state coffers by making tax on heating fuel the same as for diesel, while at the same time paying out 200 million euro in heating benefits.
The above two measures will replace that of moving 30 percent of all products from the 11 percent VAT rate to the 23 percent VAT rate, originally envisaged under the Memorandum for the bailout loans to Greece.
A levy on businesses making a profit is seen yielding one billion euro, while taxation of undistributed business profits at 20 percent instead of 24 percent is seen reducing revenues by 320 million euro.
Another 948 million euro will be raised through the new income tax framework, 300 million euro from the taxation of unauthorised buildings, 270 million euro by increasing land values for tax purposes, 150 million euro in green taxes and 1.59 billion euro from measures to combat tax evasion and sale of contraband goods.
More state revenues are also expected to arise from one-off fees charged in order to issue licences for gambling and other games (700 million euro), exploiting state real property (690 million euro), increases in court fees, faster collection of tax fines, selling broadcasting frequencies, renewing telecommunications licences and extending the lease of Athens airport.
Of the cost-cutting measures envisioned, 1.15 billion euro in savings is expected to arise by transferring the repercussions of measures taken in 2010 to 2011 and another 1.5 billion euro from measures foreseen under the Memorandum for public-sector incomes, the impact of the Kallikratis plan redrawing the boundaries of local government and savings achieved by the Single Payments Authority.
The remaining 3.85 billion euro are expected to arise from new measures in 2011, chief of which is a reduction in health sector spending by 2.1 billion euro. This is seen arising from lower costs for pharmaceutical spending by state hospitals and social insurance organisations, lower prices for pharmaceuticals and a new system for purchasing hospital supplies.
A further 800 million euro in savings is to arise by restructuring state utilities and enterprises, 500 million euro by reducing defence spending, 200 million euro by reducing state-sector operating costs, 150 million euro by introducing income criteria in the payment of family benefits and 100 million by further reductions in the number of those employed by the state with temporary contract.
 Draft budget forecasts -4.2 pct growth in 2010The Greek economy shrunk by 4.2 percent of GDP in 2010 according to the forecasts in the draft 2011 budget unveiled by the government on Thursday. GDP is expected to continue shrinking by 3 percent in 2011 before levelling off, while positive growth is forecast to resume in 2012, rising to 1.1 percent of GDP and then 2.1 percent of GDP in 2013.
Unemployment levels are also seen rising from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 14.6 percent in 2011, 14.8 percent in 2012 and 14.3 percent in 2013.
 2011 budget, public property managementThe management of the public sector's property through privatisations and floatings is targetted at one billion euros over the 2011-2013 period.
The government's strategy in the sector of denationalisations and the better management of the public sector's property, as described in the 2011 budget is the following:
Banks: Agricultural Bank, Hellenic Postbank, Deposits and Loans Fund, Attica Bank.
Infrastructures, transport and communications: Athens Interna-tional Airport, regional airports, Hellenic Rail (OSE), motorways, Hellenic Post (ELTA), frequencies' spectrum.
The implementation of the existing European directives will lead to the partial revision of partnership relations between commercial activities and distribution networks.
 Government tables 2011 budget, projects reduction of deficit to 7.4pct of GDPGreece's new budget for 2011 was tabled in parliament on Thursday, envisaging a reduction of the deficit to 7.4 percent next year from 9.4 percent in 2010, which will result from cutbacks in expenditures and an increase in revenues totaling 14.3 billion euros.
The 2011 state budget was tabled in parliament at noon on Thursday by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou after it was approved at a Cabinet meeting.
"The government is not changing the target for the size of the deficit in 2011 and is therefore not reducing the rate of the envisioned fiscal adjustment....The target for the deficit in 2011 is 17 billion euro or 7.4 percent of GDP, in other words a reduction of five billion euro in relation to 2010 or 2 percent of GDP," a finance ministry announcement said.
The announcement emphasised that Greece had achieved the largest ever fiscal adjustment in its history during 2010, exceeding targets of 5.5 percent, by reducing the deficit by 6 percent of GDP from 15.4 percent or 36.2 billion euro to a projected 9.4 percent or 22 billion euro at the end of the year.
The savings in state spending will result from measures of a structural nature that will save money and curb wasteful spending in the DEKO (public utilities and organisations), reduce spending in the health sector, clamp down on tax evasion and exploit the state's real properties.
The new budget also raises the 11 percent VAT rate to 13 percent and the lowest 5.5 VAT rate to 6.5 percent and will transferring tourist sector enterprises such as hotels and medicines from the higher VAT brackets to the 6.5 VAT bracket. Another corrective measure will be to tax diesel used for heating and diesel used in engines at the same rate, combined with annual heating benefits of 400 million euro.
As a means of reinforcing economic activity and growth, public investments will remain at the same levels as in 2010 (instead of an originally envisated reduction of 500 million euro) and the taxation rate on undistributed profits will be reduced from 24 percent to 20 percent.
According to the budget, the reduction of the fiscal deficit will continue also continue in the subsequent years, and is projected to be contained at 6.5 percent of GDP in 2012, 4.9 percent of GDP in 2013, and 2.6 percent of GDP in 2014.
Parliament president Philippos Petsalnikos announced that the budget will be debated by the parliament plenary in five consecutive sittings, from Saturday, December 18 to midnight Wednesday, 22 December, at which time a vote will take place.
Before voting by the parliament plenary, the budget will be discussed in parliament's standing budget committee.
 PM calls for stepped up deficit-reduction effortPrime Minister George Papandreou told his Cabinet members on Thursday that the government aims to reduce its deficit by 6 percentage points of the GDP in 2010, corresponding to 14 billion euros, while he underlined that the recent definitive assessment of the 2009 deficits "has changed the starting point ... in 2009 the deficit was 36.2 billion euros and not 32 billion as we thought. Therefore, the deficit was 15.4 pct of the GDP and not 13.6 pct."
"The initial targets of our programme will be maintained in the 2011 state budget as we have pledged. Namely, to reduce the deficit to 17 billion euros by the end of 2011," he said, adding that "essentially, the targets originally set have been met even though the starting points were changed."
"The difficult struggle we have launched has proved to be much harder than anticipated," he said, stressing that "efforts this year should be more intense than predicted," considering that the "deficit for 2010 is reduced by 14 billion euros to 22 billions and not to 18 billions as planned."
Papandreou stated that the government has pledged that the civil servants will see no more cuts in their salaries or pensions, while there will be no additional tax increases, adding that "an effort will be made for a milder adjustment because the market is faced with huge problems."
He underlined that structural problems will be targeted to allow for spending cuts in public administration while, as regards the loss-making public utility companies, he said that "many of them do not even offer the right services". He also referred to the great potential for spending cuts in the sector of health.
Having as a goal to offer better services to the people, the premier called on his ministers to table proposals for the abolition, incorporation and merger of agencies, underlining that "the civil servants should be allies in this effort". He also added that the implementation of e-governance in all sectors is imperative.
As regards developments in Europe, Papandreou stated that "even before the crisis, our position was in favour of serious EU economic governance and a permanent European mechanism." On the private sector's participation in the mechanism, he backed the imposition of stock market transactions tax (of roughly 0.05 pct) estimated to yield roughly 200 billion euros annually in Europe.
Referring to the recent local government elections, the prime minister stated that "the people with their vote have turned their backs to destabilisation."
 ND spokesman on draft budgetMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos on Thursday criticised the government over the state draft budget, saying that the budget "calls on big sacrifices from the citizens without securing that they will be effective."
He stressed that the budget "does not provide a growth exit for the economy, it does not combat recession, it does not handle unemployment and does not protect the financially weak."
"For this reason a change in policy is necessary for the sacrifices of the Greek people to have an affect," the spokesman added.
 Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president on new budgetAthens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Constantine Mihalos, replying to a question by the press on the 2011 budget tabled in Parliament on Thursday, said that "the new budget contains measures and targets that will be difficult to achieve."
He added that "in the sector of expenditures the cutbacks anticipated, in order to be implemented, necessitate bold decisions and conflicts with partisanship and trade unions. In the sector of revenues, again unfortunately the increases of indirect and direct taxes are leading, with the exception of tourism and the pharmaceuticals, a fact that we applaud."
 President in Sofia: Large margins for further growth of Greek-Bulgarian economic relationsSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
The large margins for further growth of the already strong Greek-Bulgarian relations in the economic sector were stressed by Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias in Sofia on Thursday, in a greeting to the inauguration of the Greece-Bulgaria Business Forum taking place in the Bulgarian capital with the participation of more than 200 large and small and medium size (SME) enterprises from both countries.
"Despite the difficult international economic conjuncture, the level of Greek-Bulgarian relations is steadily expanding in a wide range of sectors, such as, indicatively, commerce, the economy, tourism, investments, energy and others," said Papoulias, who arrived in Sofia on Wednesday on a two-day state visit.
Papoulias noted that the bulk of bilateral trade was constantly increasing, and Bulgaria is now one of Greece's most significant partners, holding 4th place among buyers of Greek products, while Greece is Bulgaria's second biggest customer, absorbing 9.4 percent of Bulgaria's overall exports.
"Greece's significant contribution to Bulgaria's economic growth is also mirrored by the presence of Greek enterprises in Bulgaria, with the total Greek capital invested in the country exceeding 2.8 billion euros," Papoulias noted.
He added that Greek direct foreign investments in Bulgaria were currently the 4th largest, while more than 1,500 Greek enterprises are active in the neighboring country in the entire range of economic life, and mainly in the sectors of telecoms, banks, fiscal and consulting services, industry, food, metallurgy and infrastructures, contributing dynamically to the modernisaton of the Bulgarian economy and the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.
Papoulias further noted that Greece, in the context of the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), has approved 14 proposals for private productive investments in Bulgaria, of which 10 have already been completed.
Noting the long-standing and successful presence of Greek consulting companies in Bulgaria, he stressed: "Given the inflow of EU funds to Bulgaria, the coordinated effort being made by the Bulgarian state for further improvement of its absorption rate and in general the country's developmental initiatives in recent years, the field of action of the consulting firms is widening and the opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration between Greek and Bulgarian companies in this field are increasing."
Noting that Greek-Bulgarian relations, in recent years, "have made a positive and at the same time qualitative leap", resulting in the two friendly countries evolving into strategic partners and comprising "a precious example of good neighborhood and mutual respect in the wider region", Papoulias expressed his conviction that this close bilateral relationship comprises a pillar of security and stability for all of Europe".
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov described the Forum as a "key element" of Papoulias' visit to Sofia.
Expressing pleasure that the economic crisis has not essentially affected, nor caused reverberations, in the economic relations between the two countries, he stressed that "this is good news".
Greece has for years been among Bulgaria's best trade partners, he said, noting that Greek investments in the country over the last 15 years have exceeded 3.5 billion euros.
He named several examples of "auspicious impact" of Greek investments in the Bulgarian economy, such as the Greek Viochalko Group that this year re-hired all the workers it had been obliged to lay off from the large steel mill in the city of Pernik, the Aktor Group's successful activity in the construction of the Trakia Highway, and the dynamic activity of the TERMA Group in several major projects throughout Bulgaria.
Parvanov also noted the dynamic development of relations between SMEs of the two countries, while he also predicted that the tourism flow on the joint Greek-Bulgarian borders will break all records by the end of the year.
"In the wider context of our rising economic cooperating, we place particular emphasis on energy," Parvanov said, stressing: "Indeed, due to their strategic position, Greece and Bulgaria have the opportunity for important natural gas and oil distribution pipelines to pass through the two countries. In this way, we will not only guarantee energy security here in the Balkans, but we will also contribute to the energy security of Europe."
Parvanov further noted that the dynamic growth of bilateral relations of the recent years is first of all a consequence and outcome of the traditional ties of friendship between Greeks and Bulgarians, their mutual confidence in the institutions, but also the unanimous support of all the political forces of the two countries, regardless of any political changes in the two countries.
 Droutsas meets with Bulgarian FM in SofiaSOFIA (ANA-MPA/S. Papadopoulou)
Issues of bilateral, regional and European interest were the focus of talks between Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas and his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Mladenov in Sofia on Wednesday evening.
Droutsas, who was accompanying President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on a state visit to Bulgaria, reiterated Greece's support for Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen Area.
According to a Bulgarian foreign ministry announcement, the two ministers discussed proposals for changes to the EU Treaty, and the creation of a support mechanism for the EU member countries facing fiscal and economic problems.
The second joint meeting of the Greek and Bulgarian governments (Greece-Bulgaria High Level Cooperation Council) is slated to take place in Greece in 2011.
The inaugural meeting of the Council was held in Sofia in July, presided by the Greek and Bulgarian prime ministers, George Papandreou and Boiko Borisov respectively.
The announcement also noted that Droutsas thanked Bulgaria for its participation in the European FRONTEX Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) patrolling Greece's river border with Turkey in Evros to stem the flow of illegal migrants.
 President Papoulias concludes official visit to BulgariaSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
President Karolos Papoulias met with Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos on the last day of his two-day official visit to Bulgaria on Thursday.
In the framework of his contacts with Parliamentary party leaders, President Papoulias held talks with the president of the Bulgarian Socalist Party and the leftist "Coalition for Bulgaria" Sergey Stanisev.
President Papoulias also attended an official luncheon hosted in his honour by Bulgarian Parliament president Cecka Cacheva.
Lastly, President Papoulias met with representatives of cultural societies and of other expatriate organisations of the Greeks in Bulgaria in the evening, shortly before leaving for Athens.
 ND leader to meet with 'troika' reps on FridayMain opposition New Democracy (ND) President Antonis Samaras will meet on Friday with "troika" inspectors at the party's headquarters in Athens.
In the meeting, scheduled to take place at 1:30 pm on Friday, Samaras will repeat that "the memorandum policy suffocates the Greek economy when what's necessary is to give a boost to growth."
He will make it clear that ND is against a layoff policy in the public sector, underlining that it will not solve the problem because it will only increase unemployment and strengthen the vicious circle of recession. However, he will support the implementation of structural reforms in the public and wider public sector to cut costs and increase effectiveness. Also, Samaras will flatly reject the likelihood of controlled bankruptcy.
Before meeting with the "troika" representatives, he will chair a meeting of the party's executive secretariat to discuss the outcome of the recently held local government elections and the state budget tabled in parliament on Thursday.
 State Department annual report on religious freedom: Country chapter on GreeceWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
The US State Department on Wednesday released its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, a comprehensive review of the status of religious freedom in countries and territories around the world.
The country chapter on Greece notes that the Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Constitution establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ (Greek Orthodox Church) as the prevailing religion, but also provides for the right of all citizens to practice the religion of their choice.
It said that there was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government, which generally respected religious freedom in practice, but noted that some religious groups faced administrative restrictions, such as permits for the establishment or operation of places of worship.
It also said there were multiple reports in the media of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice, and noted the arson attack against the Toxotes mosque in Thrace in September 2009, which Greek government officials condemned and installed new security cameras afterward, and vandalism of the Sunni Mosque in Xanthi with graffiti in December 2009, and of tombstones in the Muslim cemetery in Komotini in February 2010, and also two arson attacks on the Jewish Synagogue, in Chania, Crete. It further noted a demonstration in May 2009 of approximately 1,000 Muslim migrants in Athens, protesting an incident in which a police officer allegedly damaged a copy of the Qur'an while performing an identity check.
Also, expressions of anti-Semitism continued to occur, particularly in the extremist press, the report said, and noted that in January 2010 an Athens court convicted the editor of an extremist magazine for distributing anti-Semitic leaflets in 2007.
The report further noted that Archbishop Ieronymos in May 2009 hosted Anglican leaders to discuss the importance of interfaith dialogue, societal challenges and cooperation on charity issues, while Greece's minister of state inaugurated the Holocaust Monument in Athens in May.
Also, it said that leaders of many non-Orthodox religious groups reported that while the Orthodox Church seldom engaged in official contact with other religious groups, cordial private contacts between Orthodox Church officials and members of minority religious groups have increased in frequency, and Orthodox leaders attended ceremonies hosted by other religious, such as the Jewish community's Holocaust Memorial Day and events during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
 ND vice-president meets with Canadian envoyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos met on Thursday with Canada's ambassador to Athens Renata Wielgosz.
The meeting, held in the presence of the diplomatic adviser to the ND president, focused on political, diplomatic, economic and trade issues.
 Greek enterprises call for revision of Memorandum, propose 15 'shock measures'The Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB), Greece's largest employers' union, on Thursday asked for a revision of the Memorandum signed with the troika, through the introduction of 15 shock measures, warning that excessive tax burdens and delays in implementing structural reforms were undermining the country's outlook.
The SEB proposals were submitted to EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting with the Commissioner in Brussels, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation, said "a faster implementation of structural reforms could justify any complacency in diversification from fiscal goals of 2010 and 2011 as the society cannot afford any additional tax burden or income cuts".
"It is my belief that our partners have the will and the intention to facilitate even further the country in completing this painful effort of economic restructuring," Daskalopoulos said.
The proposals will be submitted to the Greek government and troika officials also.
The 15 shock measures recommended by the Federation envisage:
Accelerating structural reforms with the opening up of all markets and professions, cutting deficits in all public enterprises and drastically cutting spending in hospital and pharmaceutical supplies.
Also, creating an effective mechanism to monitor the implementation of structural reforms, intensifying efforts to cut public waste, adopting shock measures to combat recession by promoting investments and growth, seeking to restart the economy with measures such as: restoring liquidity in the market, absorption of a 25-bln-euro support line by banks, ensuring VAT refunds, negotiating with European Investment Bank of more favourable financing criteria for large-scale projects, setting a minimum target for a Public Investments Program, cutting dividend taxes, adopting a new framework for holding companies, accelerating a privatizations program, promoting outsourcing of public services, setting new standards for international tenders, drafting a new plan based on the country's comparative advantages and creating an effective mechanism to coordinate this new development plan with the contribution of the private sector.
The Federation noted that an unprecedented fiscal adjustment program implemented in Greece carried serious risks, such as failure to meet revenue goals and an extended recession. Developments in the January-October period this year confirmed that these risks were real. "Raising taxes or cutting incomes is no longer a solution as they could push the economy deeper into recession and risk social turmoil," Daskalopoulos said.
He added that the Greek government and its creditors were overly optimistic on the ability of the country to raise its tax revenues and to move from a growth model based on loans, subsidies, public expenditure and consumption to a different growth model based on investments and exports.
 OECD report: Fiscal adjustment effort must continue, but further measures may be neededGreece must continue the effort for fiscal adjustment, but could be obliged to adopt further austerity measures if the global economic recovery stalls, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report on the economic prospects of its 33 members released on Thursday.
In the country chapter on Greece, the OECD said that Greece was broadly on track in its fiscal adjustment program, which aims at reducing the fiscal deficit to 7.6 percent by GDP by end 2011 from an upwardly revised 15.4 percent in 2009.
"A further decline in the deficit to around 6.5% of GDP is assumed in the projection for 2012 in line with the Economic Policy Program. However, in view of lower projected growth by the OECD, this would require additional measures compared to the program," the report noted.
It said that in May Greece narrowly avoided a prospect of default with the aid of a 110 billion euro European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund loan package, and agreed to advance measures for fiscal adjustment and economic reforms aiming to reduce its fiscal deficit to below 3 percent of its GDP by 2014.
The OECD warned, however, that Greece needs to carry on with the austerity program beyond that date so as to be able to address the increasing burden of its debt, which is estimated to peak in 2013 at 149 percent of GDP.
Lowering the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by 2014, as envisaged by the program, is essential to correcting the unsustainable fiscal imbalances, even if this would require further austerity measures, according to the OECD, which added that the consolidation efforts need to continue beyond the program's horizon in order to reduce the very high debt burden.
The report projected that the Greek economy will shrink by 2.7 percent next year before entering a modest recovery in 2012 with a growth rate of 0.5 percent. Unemployment is projected to rise in 2011 to 14.5 percent and to 15.2 percent in 2012, against 12.2 percent projected for this year.
Successful pursuit of the program will minimise risks to the projected recovery, but could be slowed by social opposition, the OECD report added.
 Regional Development minister on rewarming of economyRegional Development and Comppetitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, speaking at a press conference following Thursday's cabinet meeting, presented the government's strategy on rewarming the economy, the restoration of healthy competition and the decrease in prices to levels that are fair for consumers and which correspond to the state of the economy.
Replying to questions by the press on the increase of VAT in food with the transfer of products, Chrykssohoidis said that one must not be hasty since the processing of the measures by the relevant Economy ministry has not yet been completed.
The ministry's aim is the implementation of an integrated strategy that will "return incomes to consumers who lost due to unfair prices that were applied in our market."
 Ag Minister meets with Bulgarian counterpartAgricultural Development & Foods Minister Costas Skandalidis, who is accompanying President Karolos Papoulias in his visit to Bulgaria, met on Thursday with his Bulgarian counterpart, Agriculture & Food Industry Minister Miroslav Naidenov.
Skandalidis referred to a close bilateral cooperation between the two neighbours and allies, while he invited his counterpart to visit Athens on Dec. 7 for a meeting that will also be attended by the ministers of agriculture of Romania and Cyprus, focusing on the adoption of a joint axis of negotiation on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after the year 2013.
Referring to the Commission's announcement concerning CAP, Skandalidis said "a positive point of proposals is the continuation of direct subsidies and financial assistance," adding that the Greek government is studying the proposals and their impact on Greek agriculture.
"A consultation is underway with all parties involved to have our proposals ready to be presented in the difficult negotiation to be formally launched in Brussels at the end of the month," Skandalidis said, adding that "our goal is a politically and financially strong CAP that will support the income of the farmers and the country's production web."
 Union reps meet with 'troika' inspectorsRepresentatives of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest umbrella trade union, on Thursday met with a delegation of EU-ECB-IMF "troika" inspectors.
The private sector trade union expressed opposition over the contents of the updated memorandum, charging that the "horizontal implementation" of individual business work contracts, rather than sector collective work contracts, will turn the job market into a "jungle, hurt business competitiveness and cause social upset."
GSEE presented a relevant memo to the "troika" that included its arguments.
 PPC employees to stage protest at environment/energy ministry during Birbili meeting with troikaPublic Power Corporation (PPC) employees will be staging a protest outside the environment, energy and climate change ministry on Friday in protest of the planned deregulation of the electricity market, planned to coincide with minister Tina Birbili's meeting with the EU-IMF troika.
PPC employees' federation GENOP-PPC president Nikos Fotopoulos, in a statement to ANA-MPA on Thursday, warned that "even if the government agrees to the troika's recommendations for liberalisation of the market, with which GENOP disagrees, they will first need to be approved by the PPC board of directors in order to be materialised".
And for that to happen, "even if some executives of the company are willing to sign them, the board of directors meeting will have to be held somewhere outside Greece...in the Land of Fire (Tierra del Fuego)," he said characteristically.
The PPC employees are protesting the planned access of private concerns to lignite-powered electricity production, in which the PPC currently has the monopoly.
The troika's initial recommendation for the sale of 40 percent of the PPC's lignite-powered electricity plants was rejected by the government this past summer, and "equivalent solutions" have been sought since.
GENOP also rejects other proposals that have been put forward for the lease or sale of existing production at cost price or through tenders to private concerns and counter-proposes the tendering and concession to private concerns of the unexploited lignite deposits recently discovered in Drama and Elassona.
"We are not opposed to investments by private concerns, whoever wants and is able to can make them," Fotopoulos said.
He warned, however, that if an agreement is signed on Friday based on the proposals that have already been heard "we will have tough confrontations and strikes".
Any counter-proposal would need to have the approval of the troika.
The demonstration is planned for 10:00 a.m. Friday outside the ministry, where the meeting with the troika is scheduled to begin an hour later.
 Culture minister in ThessalonikiCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos will be in Thessaloniki on Thursday afternoon for a two-day visit within the framework of the inauguration of the 26th Philoxenia International Tourism Exhibition.
Soon after his arrival, Geroulanos will visit the exhibition grounds and meet with the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (ITF) management. Afterwards, he will deliver a speech during the official inauguration of Philoxenia in "Ioannis Vellidis" Helexpo Congress Centre.
On Friday, Geroulanos will attend the closed session of the presidents of the Greek hotelier associations.
On Saturday, he will meet with Yiannis Boutaris, the newly elected mayor of Thessaloniki. In the afternoon, he will attend a forum on culture and tourism in northern Greece.
 Samos and Halkidiki among five most popular Greek seaside destinationsSamos and Halkidiki are included in the five most popular tourist destinations in Greece, according to the results of a vote on the awarding of tourist prizes that took place on Thursday night in the framework of the Philoxenia exhibition, inThessaloniki.
Following a vote held through the website of Helexpo's exhibition agency, the five most popular seaside Greek destinations fore 2010 are Samos, Crete, Lefkada, Santorini and Halkidiki.
The popular mountain destinations are Old Agios Athanasios Pellas, Zagorohoria, Mount Olympus, Parnassos and Pilion.
The five most popular cities are Nafplio, Athens, Volos, Thessaloniki and Yiannena.
The competition takes place for the fifth consecutive year and the awarding of the prizes was carried out after Philoxenia's inauguration ceremony, by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.
 Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce conference in AthensThe Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce is organising for the 21st consecutive year an economy conference entitled "The time of the Greek Economy- Regaining our credibility" on 29 and 30 November at a downtown Athens hotel
Former Italian Finance Minister Tommaso Padoa-Scioppa, who is serving as Prime Minister George Papandreou's advisor and European Commission Deputy Director General for economic and financial affairs Servaas Deroose, as well as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras will speak on the measures that have been taken in the context of the Memorandum and on the prospects of the Greek economy.
 Settlement of outstanding tax cases deadline extendedThe deadline for the taxpayers who wish to accept the measure of the settlement of outstanding tax cases will be extended until Nov. 29. The announcement was made by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Thursday, who pointed out that roughly 300 million euros have been collected so far since the implementation of the specific measure.
The deadline for recipients of outstanding tax cases settlement notices that had no errors expired on Thursday, whereas the deadline for those with errors, currently in the process of being corrected by the tax bureaus, expires on Nov. 24.
The initial target for the measure was roughly 700 million euros.
 IKA-ETAM announces 32.88 pct reduction in pharmaceutical spending in OctoberThe social insurance fund IKA-ETAM on Thursday announced a 32.88 percent reduction in pharmaceutical spending during the month of October. It said the fund's total spending on pharmaceuticals came to 124 million euros in October 2010, down from 183 million euros in October 2009.
According to the IKA-ETAM announcement, the reduction indicated that the control of prescriptions was beginning to yield tangible savings.
 Strikes by municipal workers on Fri.The local authority workers' union has called a 24-hour nationwide strike for Friday, Nov. 19.
On Nov. 20 and 21, the municipal workers' union has called for a 48-hour abstention or strike, depending on individual sectors.
Union demands include the signing of a collective work contract, a new salary scale, protection of contract workers' rights, protection of auxiliary pension rights and healthcare.
 Stocks up 2.6% upStocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, recovering much of the losses posted in the previous two sessions. The composite index of the market increased by 2.60 pct to end at 1,502.83 points, with turnover a low 98.71 million euros.
The Big Cap index was up 2.85 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.11 pct up and the Small Cap index was up 1.95 pct. Hellenic Postbank posted a whopping 13.59 pct gain, while Hellenic Telecoms was up 9.92 pct.
Telecoms (9.92 pct) and Raw Materials (3.72) posted the biggest earnings of the day, while Insurances (3.26) posted the biggest losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners 113 to 47 with another 48 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.82%
Personal & Household: +1.51%
Raw Materials: +3.72%
Travel & Leisure: +0.09%
Food & Beverages: +2.23%
Financial Services: +1.36%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.58
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.25
HBC Coca Cola: 19.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.72
National Bank of Greece: 7.18
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.20
Bank of Piraeus: 3.20
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 891 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.59 pct and the German Bund 2.68 pct. Turnover in the market was a thin 12 million euros of which 5 million were buy orders and the remaining 7 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.54 pct, the six-month 1.27 pct, the three-month rate 1.04 pct and the one-month rate 0.84 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount 1.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 42.808 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,822 contracts worth 34.238 million euros, with 34,047 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,086 contracts worth 8.570 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (4,709) followed by National Bank (3,717), Piraeus Bank (1,561), Alpha Bank (1,369), MIG (930), Eurobank (929) and Hellenic Postbank (579).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.375
Pound sterling 0.859
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.432
Japanese yen 114.63
Swiss franc 1.358
Norwegian kroner 8.227
Canadian dollar 1.400
Australian dollar 1.392
 International press conference held in AthensThe international conference on "The Press and the European mass media towards the economic crisis" was held at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday.
Government spokesman George Petalotis congratulated the organisers for "such a timely event" and referred to the role of the Press, stressing that it has a catalytical effect on citizens' psychology.
The initiative for the conference was by the European Parliament's office in Athens, the delegation of the European Commission in Greece and the embassies of Hungary, France, Belgium, Spain and Germany.
 Annual Leonid meteor shower peaks in Friday's predawn skiesInhabitants all over the planet, including Greece, will be treated to a cosmic fireworks display put on by shooting stars, as the annual Leonid meteor shower peaks in the first hours of Friday just before dawn.
The Leonids, the most spectacular of the meteor showers, grace the night skies in November each year.
The best time to view the meteor shower is in the last hours before dawn, after the moon has set and as the constellation Leo, from where the meteors appear to emanate, is at its peak in the southeastern sky.
The Leonids are the cosmic debris from the Tempel-Tuttle comet. The tiny comet particles orbit the sun in a direction opposite that of the Earth. As a result, they hit Earth's atmosphere at exceptionally high speeds of some 72 kilometers per second, resulting in very swift streaks of light, some of which leave persistent trails in their wake lasting for several seconds.
 Poachers threaten mainland wild goat with extinctionA wild goat subspecies native to northern Greek mountain ranges, Rupicarpa rupicarpa balcanica, is now threatened with extinction, mostly because it is the most sought after trophy for local and Albanian poachers who cross the border along Mt. Grammos in the northwest to hunt the specific animal, biologist Haritakis Papaioannou told the ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
A study on local hoofed animals entitled "Monitoring of fauna species on Grammos Mountain range", conducted within the framework of a research by Arcturos environmental organization, has showed that the wild goat population in the region is very small made up of roughly 50 members expected to be further reduced in numbers due to poaching practices. The entire wild goat population across Greece is roughly 700 individuals.
A small population increase is being recorded in just four regions, the Vikos-Aoos National Park, the mountains Olympus and Giona and the Fraktos Forest. However, this trend can be reversed easily unless an effective preservation mechanism and a National Action Plan for the wild goat are set up.
According to Greek legislation, the wild goat is a protected wildlife species and its hunting is forbidden.
 Another incident involving residents, migrants in troubled inner city district reportedTwo Bangladeshi migrants claimed they were assaulted on Wednesday evening outside a makeshift Muslim prayer place by a crowd of local residents in a downtown inner city Athens neighbourhood that has dominated the national limelight of late vis-?-vis the issue of urban ghettoisation in the Greek capital.
The alleged incident took place in the congested Aghios Panteleimonas district, which has generated increased media coverage over the recent period due to rallies by local residents against the presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants -- primarily from the Middle East and South Asia -- in the vicinity. Local residents have vociferously pointed to an increase in crime and the area's downgrading. Even more menacing, the tension has attracted the presence of ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist youths on one side, and self-styled urban anarchist youth on the other.
A police patrol dispatched to the scene took the two men to a local hospital, while reports state that the pair declined to file charges against unknown perpetrators.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, a group of migrant street peddlers in the centre of Athens on Thursday afternoon briefly clashed with riot police after claiming that law enforcement authorities -- a joint police (EL.AS) and municipal police detail -- confiscated Muslim holy writings on papyrus amongst the bootleg wares they were peddling.
The man that made the claim and instigated the incident, an Iraqi street peddler, was taken to a local police precinct where he made a statement, before being released.
 Arrests in Athens, Thessaloniki, in demonstrationsThirty-one (31) people were arrested in Athens and Thessaloniki late Wednesday in violence that broke out during demonstrations marking the 37th anniversary of the November 17, 1973 Polytechnic students' uprising that led to the collapse of the dictatorship in Greece.
A total of 69 persons were taken in for questioning by police, of which 23 were arrested and will appear before a public prosecutor on Thursday.
Another 8 persons were arrested by police in Thessaloniki in similar incidents.
According to Thessaloniki police, six of the detainees are charged with throwing molotov cocktails, stones and other objects at policemen, while the other two were arrested for possession of airguns during preventive checks held ahead of the demonstration.
 Man wanted on European warrant arrested in LoutrakiA Romanian national wanted on a European warrant was arrested by police in Loutraki on Wednesday night.
The 26-year-old man is wanted on a European arrest warrant to serve a 7-year prison term he has been convicted to.
The detainee will appear before a public prosecutor in Corinth later on Thursday.
 Heroin bust on CreteA 42-year-old man was arrested in Hania, o Crete, on major heroin trafficking charges, police said on Thursday. The arrest on Wednesday was made following a tip-off. A search in the suspect's house revealed 676 grams of heroin and drug paraphernalia.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 8C and 23C. Cloudy in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 18C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceSpeculation of lay-offs and abolition of benefits in the public sector, 2011 State Budget, the disbursement of the third tranche of the EU-IMF support mechanism loan and Greece's fiscal adjustment, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND): No to lay-offs in public sector".
AVGHI: "Government puts the noose around society's neck".
AVRIANI: "50 percent cuts in salaries in Public Utilities and Organisations (DEKO).
ELEFTHEROS: "Austria: George (Papandreou, prime minister) you played the (timing of the) third tranche of the loan for the (local government) elections".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "EU sends ultimatum in order to give the 6.5 billion euros (eurozone countries' share of the 9 billion euros third tranche of the EU-IMF) loan)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They are leading us to bankruptcy".
ESTIA: "Theatre of the absurd with the troika".
ETHNOS: "Government plays everything in 2011".
KATHIMERINI: "Warning via the tranche".
IMERISSIA: "Emergency measures - VAT on food and beverages to reach 13 percent".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Reassurances for the third trance of the loan".
NIKI: "Unbearable burden of 14 billion euros".
LOGOS: "Battle for reduction of the revised deficit".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government is tightening the noose on the people with new harsh measures for the troika loan".
TA NEA: "DEKOs' time - 800 million euros cuts in expenses".
TO VIMA: "Benefits to be abolished and contract employees will leave".
VRADYNI: "Unconditional submission".
 Downer hopes negotiations to develop new momentumUNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias met UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer in New York last night, ahead of his meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, where they discussed the agenda of Thursday's meeting with Ban and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
In his remarks after the meeting, Downer who also met with Eroglu after his one and a half hour meeting with Christofias, said he hoped that Thursday's meeting would be productive and that the negotiations will develop some new momentum.
In statements, Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said that the President is completely ready for the meeting, based on what was discussed at the informal leaders' council in Nicosia last week.
Stephanou said that President Christofias met with Downer and discussed the meeting with the UNSG and Eroglu. "It was a continuation of the meetings held in Cyprus. The President is ready for the meeting that will take place based on what we discussed at the informal leaders' council", he added.
In his remarks to journalists, Downer said he met with President Christofias and was going to meet Eroglu in preparation for the meeting with the Secretary General Thursday "that will begin with a working lunch and a meeting during the course of the afternoon".
"We have to see how it goes", Downer said, expressing the hope that "it will be a productive meeting and that the negotiations will develop some new momentum".
Downer acknowledged the "negotiations have lost momentum and we want them to see if this will help to give them a bit of new momentum".
Replying to a question if there is an agreement on the agenda of the meeting, Downer said: "The Secretary General has a plan for how he wants the meeting to go and I don't think there will be any problem for the two leaders. They will be happy about it".
President Christofias convened with his advisors who accompany him in New York and also attended a dinner hosted in his honour by a delegation of the Cyprus Federation of America.
There are no further meetings on the president's schedule. The meeting will begin at 2015 Cyprus time with a working lunch, that will be completed at 2130 and the main meeting will start at 2200 until midnight.
After the meeting, the Secretary-General will make a statement on the result of the talks.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
Peace talks began in September 2008 between President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Talks continue now with Eroglu, who succeeded Talat in April this year.
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