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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-05

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

ATHENS, GREECE, 05/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't to reduce tax on low, middle incomes
  • Tsohatzopoulos talks with SAE presidium over Balkan issues
  • Major UNICEF-Greece donation for children of Yugoslavia
  • Athens, Skopje on bilateral cooperation in transports, telecoms
  • Constantopoulos begins visit to Albania
  • Gov't vehemently denies any confiscations of Greek farm products
  • Violations by Turkish warplanes reported
  • 'Ta Nea' poll shows difference between ND, PASOK closing
  • Karamanlis touches on local gov't issues in Thessaloniki tour
  • PASOK announces rallies prior to Euroelections
  • Manos outlines his new party's positions
  • Tsovolas invited to Iraq
  • Gov't sends energy liberalisation bill to EU
  • Stocks end down in technical correction
  • Government meeting tomorrow on Kosovo's economic impact
  • Corporate governance to begin at Athens bourse
  • Hellenic Petroleum, Metka sign refinery repair deal
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't to reduce tax on low, middle incomes

The government will reduce tax on low and middle incomes and boost job creation through tax breaks, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday.

Addressing an inauguration ceremony for the finance ministry's information systems division, the premier noted that the changes would take into account the impact on the economy from the Kosovo crisis. He did not elaborate.

Mr. Simitis repeated that the government's main objective was to ensure the country's entry into the euro zone by January 1, 2001, as planned. He indicated that the government would refrain from pre-election handouts.

Among reforms to the tax system, the government will abolish base assessed tax as soon as the finance ministry completes installation of a new computer system, due by the end of the year, the prime minister said.

Technological and organisational reform within the finance ministry aimed to boost transparency in dealings between the state and the public, reduce tax evasion, strengthen fiscal restructuring, and pave the way for lower taxes, he added.

Tsohatzopoulos talks with SAE presidium over Balkan issues

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday met with the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) presidium in Thessaloniki, where efforts by Greek expatriates to assist Balkan countries facing current problems were discussed.

Talks focused on initiatives by expatriates to mobilise international non- governmental organisations in support of a massive aid package for Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, and neighbouring Balkan countries.

Major UNICEF-Greece donation for children of Yugoslavia

UNICEF's Greek committee yesterday announced a 50-million-drachma donation for the immediate relief of Yugoslavia's children, collected during a radio marathon sponsored by the agency.

The aid will be equally divided to purchase vaccines for refugee children in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and restoring the health of children in Yugoslavia.

UNICEF also announced the initiation of a three phase vaccination in the refugee camps of FYROM.

Athens, Skopje on bilateral cooperation in transports, telecoms

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis held talks with officials here yesterday focusing on bilateral cooperation in the transports and telecoms sectors.

"Cooperation in those sectors will assist in the development of ties between the two countries and will contribute to the maturing of a solution for the name issue", Mr. Mantelis stressed.

Better transport of goods and people, duty-free land transportation, development of a railway connection between Skopje and Florina, a regular railway connection between Skopje and Thessaloniki as well as an air connection between Skopje and Athens were some of the issues discussed. In addition, privatisation of FYROM's telecommunications sector with the participation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) was also brought up.

The Greek minister said the meetings were "productive" while he stressed that Greece was willing to support FYROM in the context of multilateral cooperation. Finally, he cited Skopje's consideration to assign construction of FYROM's main highway sections to Greek firms.

Constantopoulos begins visit to Albania

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos began a two-day visit to Albania yesterday as part of his tour of Balkan countries.

"At a moment of war, we are travelling and conveying the message and hope of peace," Mr. Constantopoulos told the prefect of the town of Pogradec on the first stop of his visit to Albania.

He also visited refugees housed at a settlement created by a Greek military force. On his part, the Albanian prefect expressed satisfaction over Greece's position during the latest crisis.

Mr. Constantopoulos will meet the President and Prime Minister of Albania today, as well as other members of the Albanian government.

Gov't vehemently denies any confiscations of Greek farm products

The government yesterday categorically denied any confiscations of Greek agricultural products anywhere in Europe for allegedly containing toxic substances generated from NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

"No European customs authorities rejected or confiscated any (Greek) produce cargo and no state authority ever raised an issue of toxic substances in Greek products," Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said, adding that "the only issue was the probl em caused by the war to our exports," for which Greece is claiming compensation.

Violations by Turkish warplanes reported

Athens yesterday attributed recent violations of Greek air space by Turkish warplanes to a continuation of Ankara's provocations.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in all cases the Turkish fighter jets were intercepted by Hellenic Air Force aircraft.

"This behaviour of Turkey does not help it, because it reveals the face of a troublemaker. Ankara should at long last realise this and cease its provocations," he added.

'Ta Nea' poll shows difference between ND, PASOK closing

Ruling PASOK cadres said they were confident of winning June's European Parliament elections, following the publication of another opinion poll showing the gap between PASOK and the main opposition closing.

"We will keep victory at the polls for ourselves and the others can keep victory at the opinion polls," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

The latest figures, published in the Athens daily "Ta Nea" yesterday, showed that New Democracy was still ahead in voters' preferences but with a slightly smaller gap of 5 per cent.

The V-PRC poll put support for ruling PASOK at 27.1 per cent, with support for New Democracy at 32.5 per cent.

The last V-PRC poll in January had returned a difference of 11 per cent in the opposition's favour.

In addition, yesterday's poll gave the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) 5.8 per cent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 5.1, the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) 4.6 and Political Spring (Pol.An) 1.6 per cent.

Karamanlis touches on local gov't issues in Thessaloniki tour

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday addressed issues related to local government during a visit to the Thessaloniki area.

Speaking to the municipal council of Triandria, Thessaloniki, Mr. Ka- ramanlis said the structure and operation of the Greek state is the same with that of the first half of the century, while its "effective-ness is outrageously low".

Mr. Karamanlis said the current government bears a large responsibility for the existing corruption and high centralisation of funding and decision- making.

Mr. Karamanlis also accused the government over the more than two-year delay in the operation of the new Papageorgiou Hospital in western Thessaloniki.

The main opposition leader also addressed a rally of supporters last night.

PASOK announces rallies prior to Euroelections

Ruling PASOK's executive bureau yesterday decided that the party will hold seven rallies in light of June's Euroelections.

The meeting was presided over by party president and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

It was decided that Mr. Simitis will address all seven rallies, while the official kick-off of the election campaign will take place in Elefsina, western Attica.

Developments on the war in Yugoslavia were also discussed, as Mr. Simitis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos briefed other executive bureau members on the ongoing Balkan crisis.

Following the meeting, PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis said former FM Karolos Papoulias will visit Belgrade in his capacity as chairman of Parliament's standing foreign affairs and defence committee.

Manos outlines his new party's positions

Former New Democracy minister Stephanos Manos outlined the differences between his newly established "Liberals" party from ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy during an address in Athens yesterday.

Mr. Manos, hosted at a luncheon organised by the Hellenic British Chamber of Commerce, focused on a series of crucial issues and criticised what he called the "partisan establishment of political favours", which he said is represented by the two major parties.

He said that the structure of party mechanisms in Greece in all sectors of public life, constitutes the greatest scourge for the country, adding that for this reason the party will not take after the mainstream parties and will not participate in non-political confrontations. He also said his party will not have trade union, cooperative and student affiliations.

Focusing on his political positions, Mr. Manos went on to say that "insurance reform must go ahead now, an end must be put to the scandalously free privileges of certain powerful groups and trade unions and, in parallel, part of revenues from privatisat ions must be utilised to support the humiliating pensions of elderly people more, who have no other resources for subsistence."

In terms of the economy, Mr. Manos called for privatisations and other reforms to go ahead with "the criterion of the needs of the Greek economy and the Greek people and not on the basis of the interests of party mechanisms" and also blames ND for oppos ing whatever "mediocre and limp" efforts attempted by the government.

On the question of cracking down on unemployment, Mr. Manos said it cannot be carried out with state interventions, such as the decrease in working hours and the enactment of state programmes and subsidies, but with the birth of new businesses which nec essitates "the encouragement of enterprise and interventions in the functioning of public administration and the legislative fra-mework."

Referring to developments in Yugoslavia, Mr. Manos termed the position of both the Greek government and of main opposition ND as "crafty."

Tsovolas invited to Iraq

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas was invited yesterday by the Iraqi ambassador to Athens to visit the Mideast country.

During their meeting, Mr. Tsovolas and Iraqi envoy Abdul-Muhsin M Said discussed conditions in Yugoslavia, while the DHKKI leader said he was pessimistic that an end to what he called the "bestial" incursion of NATO in Yugoslavia would soon appear.

The two men said that democratisation and the protection of human rights are "the pretexts...so as to hide their real intentions, which are control of oil and the facilitation of geopolitical and strategical plans in the region (both) in the Balkans and the Middle East."

Gov't sends energy liberalisation bill to EU

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday that the government had notified the European Union of its bill to liberalise the domestic energy sector.

The bill includes legal changes lifting existing controls, and gives an outline of how the market will operate.

In addition, there are plans for the Public Power Corporation to be partly floated on the Athens bourse.

Stocks end down in technical correction

Equities succumbed to early profit-taking to end moderately lower yesterday, reversing record gains in the previous session.

The general index ended 0.79 percent lower at 3,776.18 points, off the day's lows but sharply down from an initial 1.76 percent rise. Turnover was 150.465 billion drachmas and volume at 31,996,530 shares.

Traders said the market's underlying trend remained positive, and a minor correction was normal following the previous day's record close.

Analysts said that if the market held above the 3,740-point support level today it could more easily move towards the next resistance level at 3,980 points. Construction shares remained at the focus of trade with 16 issues hitting the daily limit up.

Sector indices ended mixed.

Banks fell 1.21 percent, Leasing rose 0.02 percent, Insurance eased 2.90 percent, Investment fell 0.39 percent, Construction jumped 4.32 percent, Industrials ended 1.13 percent off, Miscellaneous dropped 1.03 percent and Holding rose 0.11 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.62 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index fell 1.10 percent to 2,330.27.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 161 to 125 with another 13 issues unchanged.

Thessaliki, Altec, Intersat and Sysware were the most heavily traded stocks. Commercial Bank, Alpha Credit Bank, Altec and National Bank led the day's turnover.

Altec, Attica Aluminium, Levenderis, Michaniki, Proodeftiki, Technodomiki, Agrinio Metalplastics, Esha, Eltrac and Ergas scored the biggest percentage gains hitting the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Ergodata, Ionian Invest, Lanacam, Duty Free Shops, St.George Mills, Dias, Minerva, Fintexport and Halyps Cement suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,775 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 450, Ergobank at 28,200, Ionian Bank at 18,250, Titan Cement at 24,900, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,500, Intracom at 21,660, Minoan Lines at 7,400, Panafon at 8,260 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,380.

Government meeting tomorrow on Kosovo's economic impact

Government ministers involved in the economy will meet tomorrow to discuss the impact of the Yugoslav war on the country's finances, Devlopment Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.

Among topics on the agenda are proposals by the National Tourism Council on limiting repercussions on the sector.

On May 19, Mr. Venizelos will visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in Skopje at the head of a business delegation from the private and public sector.

He will meet senior government officials from Albania and FYROM for preliminary talks on Monday and Tuesday as part of visit by the two countries' prime ministers to take part in a Balkan forum.

The embargo on Yugoslavia covering petroleum products had brought a adverse impact on Greek private and state sector firms, Mr. Venizelos said in reply to a reporter's question.

Corporate governance to begin at Athens bourse

The capital markets commission yesterday announced plans to implement corporate governance practices and regulations in the domestic market.

The plan was discussed last week at a seminar held by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development and the commission on international developments in corporate governance. The field covers transparency in societe anonymes, representatio n and protection for minority holdings in multi-share companies, and optimal corporate decision-making.

The capital markets commission is to set up a panel of experts to draft a white paper on the introduction of corporate governance in Greece.

Hellenic Petroleum, Metka sign refinery repair deal

Metka announced yesterday that it had secured a contract to repair Hellenic Petroleum's Thessaloniki refinery after damage from a fire in February.

The contract, worth 2.14 billion drachmas, envisages the completion of works in two months.

Metka's chairman, Evangelos Mytilineos, said the company was signalling its return to construction following a 10-year absence from the refineries market.

Metka, which is listed on the Athens bourse, has also signed a contract to build a new processing unit at the Thessaloniki refinery, worth 600 million drachmas.

The firm was recently acquired by the Mytilineos Group.

WEATHER

Warm, humid weather will prevail throughout the country today. Partly cloudy in western, central and northern Greece with the possibility of rain or storms in Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be hot with, temperatures between 17-32C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 16-28.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          305.080
Pound sterling       491.536
Japanese yen (100)   252.186
French franc          49.179
German mark          164.942
Italian lira (100)    16.661
Irish Punt           409.616
Belgian franc          7.997
Luxembourg franc       7.997
Finnish mark          54.257
Dutch guilder        146.388
Danish kr.            43.406
Austrian sch.         23.444
Spanish peseta         1.938
Swedish kr.           36.053
Norwegian kr.         39.132
Swiss franc          200.225
Port. Escudo           1.609
Aus. dollar          201.178
Can. dollar          210.205
Cyprus pound         558.198
Euro                 322.598
(C.E.)
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