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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-04-10

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 10/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Premier urges bolder initiatives to strengthen economy
  • Greek economy performance at a rate lower than expected
  • Greek banks should increase competitiveness
  • Defence Minister calls for EU intervention in the Balkans
  • Part of Greek loan to Albania to aid Greek businesses
  • Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Greece
  • Washington in favour of recourse to the Hague for Imia
  • Merchant Marine Ministry tenders for new helicopters
  • Mortgage Bank's pre-tax profits rise in '96
  • Health Ministry initiative to tackle illegal drug use
  • Airline passengers give Athens airport a 'vote of confidence'
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Premier urges bolder initiatives to strengthen economy

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday called on private enterpreneurs to undertake bolder initiatives that will allow the economy to make the qualitative leap necessary to face increasingly stiffer international competition.

Speaking at yesterday's session of the Economist's "Roundtable with the Greek Government", which opened in Athens on Monday, Mr. Simitis said this leap entailed the speedy stabilisation of prices, reduction in fiscal deficits and high rates of growth, which required very specific forms of enterpreneurial action.

These concern the capacity to act effectively in a number of fields, including control of costs, a dynamic perspective for business growth rather than opportunistic profitability, creation or utilisation of innovations and research activities, restructuring with a view to growth in size that affords greater risk-taking and access to larger capital sources, establishment of brand names, tuning in to the messages of the markets and making good use of the conditions created by economic policy.

The modernisation of public administration, implementation of decentralisation policies and the strengthening of the adjustment of businesses to new realities are among the priorities of the Greek government, he stressed.

Greek economy performance at a rate lower than expected

He cautioned that "the performance of the Greek economy is evolving satisfactorily but at a rate lower than feasible. Production and productivity are increasing at very low rates, and funds disbursed have not been utilised to the desirable degree for the development of the country".

He also emphasised the role of private enterprise.

"Restructuring, modernisation, and an increase in productivity do not concern only the state, public utilities or working people. They concern private enterprise to an even greater degree," he said.

Mr. Simitis pointed out the government's goals do not concern particular social or professional groups, but everyone without exception. Despite the difficulties, the premier called on economic partners to look to the future with optimism.

He said the focus of government strategy was increasingly shifting towards the productive restructuring and the strengthening of the country's growth dynamics.

"Nineteen-ninety-seven is a crucial year for our policy. The extent of the improvement in the fields of fiscal deficits and inflation will determine the distance from our goal, and the intensity of the effort that will be required next year," he said.

"Investment in infrastructure and the development of human resources, the institutional changes, are gradually changing the structure of our society and economy. The national strategy in infrastructure, transport, communications, energy, ensures a large part of the competitive potential of the national economy in the coming decades," he added.

He cautioned that there is no other alternative for the country's European prospects.

"This policy, the policy of convergence, is the only answer to a multi- speed Europe. Policies which do not strengthen our economy, no matter how many excuses they are dressed up with, have one result only: they lead the country to the second or third sp eed of Europe and annul the long expectations and sacrifices of working people and the productive forces," he stressed.

He further outlined four goals of the government`s programme, namely:

  • Ensuring Greece's participation in the final phase of EMU.
  • Promotion of strong structural interventions that will speed up growth.
  • Contribution to the creation of conditions of political stability and peace in the broader region, and ensuring the existence of a strong deterrent force vis-a-vis the systematic provocations in our eastern borders and in Cyprus.
  • The fourth goal is ensuring a high degree of social cohesion, with the balancing of inequalities and creation of a society based on trust and prospects.
Mr. Simitis said Greece's recent economic performance had created new comparative advantages regarding investment, monetary, institutional, and political stability.

"Nineteen-ninety-six was the first year that the growth rate of our economy signalled, after many years, a real convergence with the average of the European Union.

"This performance was achieved without increasing the burdens for the coming years and generations. The positive course of the country's finances has resulted in the boosting of its credibility in international organisations, with secondary positive influences in the cost of external borrowing," he said.

Greek banks should increase competitiveness

Transformation of the Greek banking sector in view of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) was the focus of yesterday morning's Economist session.

Commercial Bank President Constantinos Georgoutsakos said that in view of EMU, Greek banks should try to preserve their competitive advantage in the local market.

"Greek banks should strengthen their position in the local market, where they are traditionally competitive and have developed strong ties with their local clientele," he said.

Mr. Georgoutsakos said Greek banks should also expand their activities to the Balkans, where they could benefit from Greece's traditional economic relations with these markets and from the development of Greek business interests in the region. added.

"Our aim is to protect the consumer," Development Undersecretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis told the conference.

"In view of this political pursuit," he added, "we are formulating the new rules of healthy competition in the framework of a free market economy."

Mr. Chrysohoidis said that a draft bill to improve protection of free market competition would soon be completed. He also said the ministry worked towards the creation of a system to control product quality.

Defence Minister calls for EU intervention in the Balkans

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed the need for the European Union to intervene in the Balkans, not in a fashion of managing crises through military presence alone, but through promoting conditions of economic cooperation and developme nt, with a plan similar to those entailed in Mediterranean programmes.

"Greece can play a prominent role in a new developmental scheme, having a national interest in ensuring stability in Albania and the Balkans," he said.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis stressed that there could be no normalisation of relations with Turkey as long as what he called Ankara's aggressive policy towards Greece continued. He said Greece had rejected a Dutch proposal for the establi shment of a committee of experts from third countries that would look into Greek-Turkish differences, because it contained the danger of arbitration.

He said that instead, an exchange of views between Greek and Turkish experts, with a view to preparing a report on how to handle procedural matters would be useful.

Part of Greek loan to Albania to aid Greek businesses

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said aid will be provided for Greek enterprises in Albania which have suffered losses immediately after an assessment and registration of damages has been made.

Mr. Simitis, who was replying to a question by main opposition New Democracy party deputy Haralambos Papathanasiou, said part of a 20-billion- drachma loan Greece will grant to the Albanian government will be provided for Greek enterprises suffering loss es in the neighbouring country following several months of turmoil, adding that the situation is still fluid and there is no clear picture of real losses sustained by Greek enterprises in that country.

Mr. Papathanasiou said there is also a climate of insecurity and uncertainty among the Greek business world operating in the neighbouring country, stressing that this climate is intensified by extortions from organised crime elements.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Greece

Bulgaria's caretaker Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev will pay working visit to Greece from April 14-16 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

The despatch added that Mr. Stalev would be received by President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and have talks with Mr. Pangalos.

Quoting Bulgarian foreign ministry spokesman Radko Vlaidkov, Mr. Stalev's talks will focus on Bulgaria's desire to join NATO and become a member of the European Union.

During his contacts here, Mr. Stalev is also expected to discuss the general situation in the Balkans and bilateral cooperation issues, particularly commercial and economic relations and cross-border programmes.

Washington in favour of recourse to The Hague for Imia

The White House reiterated yesterday that it favoured referral of the Imia dispute to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

"We have repeatedly said that we believe that the dispute between Greece and Turkey surrounding the sovereignty of Imia/Kardak, the island that has two names, should be referred to the International Court at The Hague...that is and will be our position," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

Merchant marine ministry tenders for new helicopters

The merchant marine ministry will in the next few days invite tenders for the supply of all-weather helicopters, following the unanimous approval of the inter-party committee responsible for examining the procurement.

Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, who made the announcement at a press conference yesterday, thanked all the representatives of the political parties who participated in the committee for their decision.

Mortgage Bank's pre-tax profits rise in '96

Speaking at the National Mortgage Bank of Greece's (EKTE) general assembly yesterday, bank governor Vassilis Rapanos said EKTE's pre-tax profits amounted to 36.08 billion drachmas compared to 20.06 billion drachmas in the previous fiscal year.

He further said that the price of the bank's shares at the Athens stock exchange increased by 59 per cent in 1996 against an increase of 22 per cent of the bank share indicator.

Mr. Rapanos added that apart from the bank's improved productivity and efficiency indicators, efforts are underway to modernise and develop EKTE and that a series of projects aimed at a gradual change in the bank's basic structures and functions has alr eady been approved.

Health ministry initiative to tackle illegal drug use

The health ministry announced a series of measures yesterday to tackle the problem of illegal drug abuse in Greece at a time when heroin-related deaths are increasing.

At the same time, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the government was not considering a change in the law against illegal drugs, during a response to a question tabled by PASOK deputy Nasos Alevras.

Health Minister Costas Geitonas said there are no "magic solutions" for this problem and called on whoever has any to come forward. The triptych of the government's effort to tackle the drug scourge was set out as following:

- An active upgrading of centres preoccupied with the issue and their close cooperation with many known centres abroad which have made great achievements in tackling the problem.

- Action through the organisation against drugs, the establishment of new centres aimed at decentralising prevention and therapy programmes and in remote parts of the country as well.

An appropriate registration of data from around the country.

Health Undersecretary Manolis Skoulakis said the turnover stemming from drug trafficking in Greece is estimated at 450 billion drachmas and called on every local association or group to organise itself and combat the problem.

Heroin-related deaths claimed 10 victims in eight days recently.

Airline passengers give Athens airport a 'vote of confidence'

Athens' Hellenikon airport has been voted the world's most improved airport by long-haul airline passengers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday.

Athens was bottom of the poll last year and for years target of fierce criticism in the travel industry.

The poll, based on the views of some 55,000 people and covering 54 airports, chose Singapore's Changi airport and Britain's Manchester as the world's top two airports. Melbourne came a close third, up from seventh last year.

WEATHER

Fine weather with long spells of sunshine is forecast for most parts of Greece today except for the Aegean islands and Crete where it will be partly cloudy. Winds will be variable, weak to moderate. Athens will be mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from 3-14C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be between 1-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 268.028 Pound sterling 435.409 Cyprus pd 525.760 French franc 46.428 Swiss franc 182.017 German mark 156.205 Italian lira (100) 15.820 Yen (100) 212.129 Canadian dlr. 193.043 Australian dlr. 209.148 Irish Punt 415.053 Belgian franc 7.572 Finnish mark 52.352 Dutch guilder 138.900 Danish kr. 41.015 Swedish kr. 34.926 Norwegian kr. 38.638 Austrian sch. 22.197 Spanish peseta 1.850 Portuguese escudo 1.559

(C.E.)


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