|Sunday, 23 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-11-02
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 2 November 2012 Issue No: 4212
 Draft budget: Greek economy to shrink by 4.5% in 2013The country's general government deficit is expected to fall to 5.2 pct of GDP in 2013, slightly improved from the 6.6-pct figure this year, while the government will present a primary budget surplus of around 0.4 pct of GDP (after capital spending), according to next year's budget, which was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
The new budget envisages that the general government's deficit will total 9.442 billion euros in 2013, down from 12.882 billion euros in 2012. This decline is expected to come from the implementation of spending cuts worth 7.592 billion euros and budget revenue hikes worth 1.782 billion euros - measures agreed to between the Greek government and the EC-ECB-IMF troika for 2013. These measures include raising the retirement age by two years, pension cuts, reduction in special payrolls in the public sector, abolishing all bonuses in pensions, cutting family benefits and the inclusion of public sector enterprises in a single payroll system.
The budget envisages that the general government's debt will rise to 346.2 billion euros in 2013, from 340.6 billion euros this year, to 189.1 pct of GDP, from 175.6 pct of GDP respectively. It also envisages a primary surplus of 0.4 pct of GDP (748 million euros) next year after a primary deficit of 1.2 pct of GDP (2.396 billion euros) this year.
On the down side, the Greek economy will suffer yet another year of recession in 2013, with the country's Gross Domestic Product projected to fall by 4.5 pct, after a 6.5-pct decline this year. The Greek economy is forecast to shrink by 21.5 pct between 2008 to 2013, falling to 183.049 billion euros, down from 194.003 billion euros in 2012.
The unemployment rate is projected to rise to 22.8 pct of the workforce in 2013, from 22.4 pct this year, while the inflation rate is expected to fall to -0.8 pct next year from 1.1 pct in 2012. Next year's budget also envisages payment of the public sector's overdue debt to the private sector (7.0 billion euros) in two equal tranches (3.5 billion euros by the end of 2012 and another 3.5 billion euros in 2013).
Budget revenues (regular) are expected to fall by 5.6 pct next year from 2012 to 46.709 billion euros despite additional tax measures included in the budget. Direct tax revenues are expected to fall by 4.6 pct to 19.877 billion euros, income tax revenues are projected to fall by 20.6 pct, while property tax revenues are expected to rise by 15.5 pct to 3.176 billion euros. Revenues from indirect taxes are expected to fall by 6.8 pct in 2013 to 24.430 billion euros.
Budget spending are expected to fall by 9.8 pct to 55.802 billion euros, with primary spending falling by 6.2 pct to 44.650 billion euros and capital spending are projected to fall by 24.2 pct. The budget also envisages that spending on wages and pensions will fall by 10.5 pct to 17.511 billion euros and consumption spending will fall by 18.8 pct.
Capital spending are expected to fall by 24.2 pct to 4.9 pct of GDP in 2013 from 6.0 pct of GDP in 2012.
 FinMin optimistic that measures will be passedFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras expressed optimism that there will be no problem in parliament and that the package of measures will be passed in next Wednesday's vote, speaking to reporters after a meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The meeting focused on the tabling of the 2013 Budget next Thursday, while Stournaras described as "very good" the climate in Wednesday's Eurogroup meeting (by teleconference) on the Greek issue.
 DIMAR adamant on positionsThe Democratic Left (DIMAR) executive committee, chaired by party leader Fotis Kouvelis, on Wednesday announced that "DIMAR remains firm in its positions on the labour issues", adding that the party's leadership estimated that the support of the coalition government remains steadfast.
However, according to information, the manifestation of a series of initiatives to restore the cohesion of the government's cohesion is probable.
 PASOK leader says Parliamentary Group decision clear, finalPASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday said his party's Parliamentary Group took a clear and final decision during its session the same day.
He was referring to several high-profile disagreements that arose during the session, which examined the stance that PASOK should observe in Parliament during the ratification of a latest round of austerity measures.
Venizelos also made it clear, in a statement, that the timetables which have been set for intra-party developments are valid as planned.
He further said the decision is that the Parliamentary Group "will do what must be done for the country's course to be safeguarded until the exit from the crisis and that this decision was the product of extensive analysis and substantive discussion". He also said that the decision was taken collectively and with an overwhelming majority.
Venizelos also pointed out that PASOK's stance from the beginning of the crisis was a responsible stance and one of assuming responsibility, "not only its own, but also of those who are hiding or who hid at some moment".
 MP leaves PASOK, declares himself IndependentPASOK MP Mihalis Kassis on Thursday announced his resignation from the PASOK party and declared himself an Independent deputy.
"I am now an Independent MP, I do not belong to PASOK, Kassis said on private Mega television station on Thursday morning.
Kassis said the "I will not sign a statement of remorse to those who govern PASOK today", adding that "those who brought PASOK down to 4 percent are only interested in how they will become ministers in Samaras' government".
The ex-PASOK deputy estimated that there are more PASOK MPs who will not vote in favor the new package of austerity measures.
 Second PASOK cadre resigns from party on ThursdayPASOK former minister and ex-National Council secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou on Thursday announced her resignation from the party, the second to do so in the day.
In a letter to PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, the former health minister and ex-alternate foreign minister said in her letter of resignation that "PASOK no longer expresses me ideologically and politically.
Xenoyiannakopouou, a former MP, also said that she disagrees with the new package of austerity measures, PASOK's position on the matter, and also with the internal developments in PASOK.
"The target of renegotiation has been abandoned and the government chose to continue the same dead-end policy, with the same impasses and dramatic economic and social repercussions," she said in her letter.
As for PASOK, a junior partner in the three-party coalition government, Xenoyiannakopoulou said that PASOK has "evolved into a small branch of the Centre-Right and has identified itself with neoliberal views and choices".
Earlier on Thursday morning, PASOK MP Mihalis Kassis announced his resignation from the PASOK party and declared himself an Independent deputy, speaking on private television.
 Former PASOK minister raises leadership issueFormer Agriculture Minister and former PASOK deputy Katerina Batzeli on Thursday raised a leadership issue in PASOK, in statements to private VIMA radio station.
"I cannot follow the transformations and the constantly changing alliances. When a leader with a fresh mandate is unable to achieve convergence of views among his deputies and when this convergence is achieved in a plasmatic way and is an incidental convergence, he himself weakens and reverses the fundamental cohesion that exists in the party's fabric," she said.
According to Batzeli, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos' resignation would be very difficult in this period because the coalition government's cohesion would be disturbed as would the government's good presence abroad., "but his handling of the negotiation at the last minute has weakened the powers of both himself and PASOK, and should take this seriously into consideration."
 Tsipras: SYRIZA prepared to undertake restructuring of country"We are ready to assume the responsibility to restructure the country," main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said in Iraklio, Crete, on Thursday, and called on the working people to "put an end to the constant blackmailing of the country by its lenders".
In a statement before returning to Athens after a Crete visit, Tsipras said that SYRIZA is ready to take on the restructuring of the country, and calls on the "healthy forces, the social forces, the Greek people, the working people, with their dynamic presence, to put an end to the constant blackmailing, to put an end to a policy that crushes the very prospect of the country's survival to a policy that converts the country into a financial colony".
"We believe that the sand in the government's sandglass is running out. They are faced with critical decisions: Either they change policy, or they will find themselves facing the judgment of the people," Tsipras said.
He said it was a 'myth' that the salaries and pensions depended on the outstanding tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan, and opined that "the three-party Memorandum 'consortium' is now in a state of decay and collapse, and no longer has even the parliamentary majority to pass the draft law for the dissolution of society".
Speaking at a gathering on Wednesday evening, Tsipras blasted the coalition government as a "government of neoliberal Mujahideen that is preparing to sell-off half of Greece", referring to the parliamentary vote on a denationalizations bill.
He further said that the outstanding 31.5 billion euro tranche will be given to Greece "not because the state coffers are becoming depleted, but in order to save the banks and the eurozone itself".
 SYRIZA's Lafazanis: 'We're not ready to govern'Main opposition SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Panagiotis Lafazanis on Thursday was quoted as saying that his party is not ready to govern as yet.
"I will not fool the people. We have covered a long way ... and we have made the steps, preparations and the planning. We have reached a good point," he said, speaking on a private television station.
Lafazanis noted that "the problems are difficult. A party can't appear every day saying that we are ready to rule and to solve all the issues; to give an answer to all the problems ... and afterwards when it assumes the government's reins to bring chaos".
"We made a great leap from 4 percent to 27 percent and we became the main opposition, and tomorrow we might, with the Greek people's will, become the government. We made a super effort. An effort to see things as realistically and substantially as possible, more in touch with reality, and to stipulate our programme on the situation. I think that because we are aware of the problems and the difficulties, what we have to date is sufficient for a springboard for a governmental policy, which will gradually bear fruit. We do not make promises," Lafazanis said.
In a later statement, Lafazanis attributed the furor caused by his statement to the isolation of the phrase "we are not ready to govern", which distorted the essence of his statement, as he said.
Clarifying what he meant, Lafazanis said "SYRIZA today is much more prepared than any previous main opposition party to play an essential governmental role in one of the toughest moments, historically, for the country".
 SYRIZA leader protests to Parliament president over important billsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras presented a protest demarche, together with party cadres Yiannis Dragasakis and Panayiotis Lafazanis, to Parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis on "the way with which the government legislates for serious issues concerning the country and the future of its citizens, with a 'fast track' process."
Tsipras expressed his grave concern over the way with which serious bills are discussed and ratified with summary processes that concern, as he said, the future of the country and of the Greek citizens, while expressing disagreement with the 2013 state budget and the Medium-Term Programme being discussed together.
 KKE leader reiterates demand for disengagement from EU, write-off of debtCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga reiterated her call for Greece's disengagement from the EU and write-off of the debt as necessary for a deep-rooted alternative solution, during a press conference on Thursday.
She said that rejection of the austerity measures by parliament, condemnation of the Memorandums and the loan agreement would give prospect and hope to the people, who in turn must rid themselves of every fear, fatalism and self-delusion regarding Greece's incorporation in the EU in general, and not only the eurozone.
Papariga called on the people to understand that the policy line of disengagement from the EU is the chain link to the popular movement not finding itself with its back against the wall but rather on a victorious course, while Greek people's full disengagement from the EU should be linked to a permanent write-off of the debt and socialization of the monopolies.
 SDOE to step up tax checks, Stournaras saysFinancial crimes squad SDOE will soon open an investigation on as many as 15,000 Greek citizens, whose names are contained in a list of 54,000 names of depositors who transferred money from Greece to foreign banks, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told a parliamentary committee looking into the 'Lagarde list' affair. Tax will apply in cases that such deposits have not been declared to Greece's taxation office, Stournaras added.
The minister said the "list containing the names of 54,000 big-time depositors is even more significant than the Lagarde list" in the government's effort to eliminate tax evasion.
Another challenge facing the Greek authorities, according to the finance minister, is money-laundering operations through offshore companies, but this needs international cooperation to deal with. Finance ministry legal staff are working on the specific issue, Stournaras said.
 Financial crimes prosecutors forward 'Lagarde list' to ParliamentThe financial crimes prosecutors office will forward to Parliament the so-called "Lagarde list" reportedly listing Greek citizens with sizeable deposits in the HSBC branch in Switzerland, sources said on Thursday
According to information, prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis are forwarding the case file containing the results of their investigation into inaction on the Lagarde list and the entire Lagarde list itself, to parliament in order for the latter to examine possible ministers' accountability in the case.
Retroactive investigation of Voulgarakis', wife's accounts requested by financial prosecutor vis-a-vis 'Lagarde list'
A parliamentary committee on the finances of political parties and politicians has asked for a retroactive investigation of the bank accounts of New Democracy (ND) former minister and his wife Aikaterini Peleki, who are included in the so-called "Lagarde list" of Greek citizens with sizeable accounts in the Swiss branch of HSBC bank.
During its meeting on Wednesday, the committee was informed of a letter from financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis that, from the ongoing investigation of the Largarde list so far, it was found that the names of Voulgarakis and his wife are contained in the list. The letter also had attached account details in a photocopy of an excerpt of the list.
 Copy of 'Lagarde list' requested from French authorities, Finmin tells ParliamentFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday revealed in Parliament that he sent a letter to his French counterpart in mid-October, asking for a second copy of the so-called "Lagarde list" originally sent by then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to her Greek counterpart George Papaconstantinou two years ago. He said that French authorities have not yet sent any reply.
Stournaras was testifying to Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee about the controversial list, which contains the names of roughly 2,000 Greeks with large bank deposits at the Geneva branch of HSBC in Switzerland.
He also revealed that the ministry was currently conducting cross-checks against a list of more than 54,000 Greeks that have bank deposits abroad, starting with those with deposits higher than 100,000 euro, and had already found several whose high deposits could not be justified on the basis on their declared income. These would now receive letters in the next few days, asking them to either account for the origin of the sums in their bank accounts or pay the difference in taxes.
Stournaras denied receiving any copy of the 'Lagarde list' when he took over as finance minister and said that no one had informed him of its existence, including the former chief of the finance ministry's financial and economic crimes' unit (SDOE) Ioannis Diotis.
The minister said that he first learned that such a list existed on September 30, when the furore concerning the affair first erupted and he was questioned about it by the "Financial Times". He also repeated that he had asked the SDOE if there was any record that such a list had been received but was told that there was not, information that he then relayed to the Financial Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis.
 Journalist found not guilty for publishing the 'Lagarde list''Hot Doc' magazine publisher, journalist Costas Vaxevanis, has been declared innocent by an Athens court on Thursday evening, on charges of violation of personal information, in connection to the publication of a list of 2,059 names alleged to be the so-called 'Lagarde list'.
Vaxevanis was arrested on Sunday, in execution of a warrant issued ex officio by an Athens prosecutor on Saturday night.
After a long hearing session, in absence of prosecution witnesses, a court judge found Vaxevanis not guilty, in contrast with a proposal by the prosecutor that he be found guilty of having published details of persons having banks accounts in HSBC bank, Switzerland. The prosecutor said the act of publishing such details was regarded as "shame and humiliation".
The 'Lagarde list', sent roughly two years ago to the then Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou by the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, contains the names of 1,991 Greek citizens that have sizeable bank accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank.
The list had ended up in the hands of French authorities about four years ago when they seized digital evidence from the house of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani.
Papaconstantinou claims to have had the original list, sent in CD format, copied on a USB stick which he turned over to the ministry's financial crimes squad SDOE for investigation, and turned over the original CD and accompanying documents to his office for "confidential safekeeping". The former finance minister says he is unaware of the CD's current whereabouts. He has also charged that no action was taken by SDOE on the list.
 Minister briefs Europarliament LIBE delegation on migration problemPublic Order Minister Nikos Dendias detailed the overall migration problem in Greece to a delegation of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE), during a meeting on Wednesday.
He also outlined the actions taken by the Greek government, as well as those regarding political asylum, and future actions.
Dendias briefed the LIBE delegation on the problem of mass illegal migration, especially in the midst of a difficult economic situation in Greece.
He further cited a draft Presidential Decree which foresees the establishment of a division in the Greek Police for dealing with racist violence.
Replying to questions by the MEPs, Dendias said Greece still has substantial work to do on the illegal migration problem, adding that the country needs the undivided help and solidarity of EU member-states.
He also said Greece's actions have been positively assessed by European Commissioner for migration issues, Cecilia Malmstrom, and by his EU counterparts at the recent Justice and Internal Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Oct. 25-26.
The LIBE delegation ascertained positive developments in the management of the migration problem and political asylum in Greece.
 Greater part of proposed pension reforms unconstitutional, Court of Audit findsThe proposed changes to Greece's pension system, including new cuts to pensions, proposed by the finance ministry were judged largely unconstitutional by the Greek Court of Audit plenum in a virtually unanimous ruling on Thursday, sources said. The decision marks the first time that the Court of Audit has judged draft legislation incompatible with the Constitution.
The 30 justices making up the court plenum found that measures contained in a draft bill prepared by the ministry, such as a fifth consecutive cut in two years to pensions, ranging from 5-15 percent, an increase in the age of retirement by two years to 67 and a blanket abolition of all holiday benefits (Christmas, Easter and summer vacation) from January 1, 2013, were not compatible with a number of articles in the Greek Constitution and violated principles such as that of equality, proportionality, protection of labour and others.
Specifically, the abolition of holiday benefits was unanimously rejected, while the further pension cuts were opposed by a large majority of justices on the grounds that they were imposed unfairly, without using proper criteria and gradations. Justices also rejected the hike in the age for eligibility for a low-pension supplement from 60 years at present to 65 years as of January 1, 2013.
They did approve legislation to cut the pensions of unmarried and divorced daughters of deceased pensioners to a maximum of 720 euro per month for those whose annual income from other sources did not exceed 8,640 euros, as well as a measure that abolished additional pensions received by those elected to Parliament or local government from the date that the bill is passed.
 Legal Council of State justices to resume strike actionJustices on the Legal Council of State on Thursday announced the resumption of previously suspended strike action from November 5-7, in protest against a draft bill cutting the salaries of the judiciary that is due to be tabled in Parliament.
During that period, the justices of the LCS will not participate in panels or plenum hearings for the issue of rulings on questions put by public administration and will not attend court hearings for the discussion of cases in which the Greek state or state agencies are litigants, nor attend meetings of administrative boards and committees that they sit on or provide other legal advice.
 Protest at state broadcaster ERT over alleged censorship, axeing of a.m. news programme duoJournalists, staff and trade unionists at the state radio and television broadcasting company ERT on Thursday held a protest in the forecourt of the main ERT building against what they called "continued incidents of censorship and privatisation". They also protested against the removal of television presenters Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi from ERT's early morning variety news programme.
The head of the state broadcaster's staff union POSPERT Panagiotis Kalfagiannis demanded that the decision to axe the two journalists be immediately revoked, while the head of the nationwide journalists' union POESY Giorgos Savvidis stressed that a decision to hand over ERT's facilities (Katehaki facility) to the adjacent public order ministry should be reversed, as well as decisions to freeze all mixed and outside productions of the TV channel NET. He further called for a settlement of issues concerning temporary contract workers and the signing of a collective labour agreement.
Several MPs of the main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party were among those protesting, as well as Communist Party (KKE) MP Liana Kanelli, who demanded the resignation of ERT's management.
 Police, public safety forces hold protest in central AthensMembers of the police force, fire brigade and coast guard union federations turned out in uniform to protest at Evangelismos Square in central Athens at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, demonstrating against the new austerity measures proposed by the government.
Their roughly two-hour rally was followed by a march to Parliament, carrying banners with messages such as "show us some respect", "enough is enough" and "don't finish us off" and passing through roads in upmarket Kolonaki in order to avoid road blocks set up by their colleagues in the MAT riot police to prevent them from reaching their destination.
Some of those in the march carried baking trays filled with beans to show that the country was regressing back several years and about to go hungry.
The new measures "were raping democracy," the head of the National Police Employees Federation Christos Fotopoulos said in a statement. Police trade unionists had earlier posted a letter outlining the reasons for their protest on the police union POASY website, urging members of the force to "wage a decisive battle before the odious measures were voted upon, participating actively and en masse in uniformed protest".
 Parliament ratifies state withdrawal from port and utility holdingsThe parliament plenary on Wednesday passed the relevant articles allowing the state's withdrawal from its holdings in the country's ports and major public utilities (DEKO), while an amendment incorporating the healthcare funds of banking employees, lawyers, engineers, doctors and media workers into the National Organisation for Healthcare Service Providers (EOPYY, the new unified primary healthcare organisation), was rejected, during a stormy session on Wednesday.
Article 4 of the bill concerning Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) contributions was also rejected.
 Equivalent measures being sought are in addition to money owed by banks' to StateThe equivalent measures being sought in the context of the fiscal adjustment programme are in addition to the sums that must be paid by the banks in the framework of their obligations arising from the banks' recapitalization, alternate finance minister Christos Staikouras reiterated, in a document submitted to parliament on October 30 in reply to a question tabled by New Democracy (ND) MP Nikitas Kaklamanis regarding the government's handling for the collection of 555 million euros owed by the banks in dividends to the state.
Staikouras said in the document that "these sums, which concern attribution of 10 percent on the capital contributed to the credit institutions...have already been included in the revenues of the State Budget with respect to the targeted fiscal result and the Greek State awaits their collection".
"Consequently, any fiscally equivalent measures being sought by the government, in the context of the fiscal adjustment programme, are in addition to the said sum," the document said.
Staikouras said in the document that he had himself sent a letter to the central Bank of Greece (BoG) governor on this matter on September 6, stating clearly that the Finance Ministry has the volition to settle this issue, given that the sum is written in as a revenue in the State Budget.
Staikouras also cited a ruling by the State Legal Council that the credit institutions are obliged to pay "the said annual dividend" to the Greek State, which ruling has been accepted by finance minister Yannis Stournaras and by himself.
Kaklamanis, in his question, had pointed out that payment of the said sum by the banks was still outstanding and asked the government to clarify how the matter would be "settled" and whether the Greek State will demand of the specific banks involved to pay the debt to the State before the new recapitalization.
 Greek banks corporate loan interest rates down in Sept.Average interest rates on new deposits increased in September, while the corresponding rate on new loans decreased, with the spread between loans and deposits decreased by 14 basis points to 3.02 percentage points, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households remained almost unchanged at 0.46 percent, while the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations increased by 5 basis points to 0.45 percent. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to 1 year, increased by 4 basis points to 4.60 percent. The overall average interest rate on all new deposits increased by 3 basis points to 2.75 percent.
In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined decreased by 4 basis points in September 2012, to 14.79 percent. The average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year decreased significantly by 57 basis points to 7.75 percent, in September 2012, from 8.32 percent in the previous month.
The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity decreased by 3 basis points to 7.54 percent. Similarly, the corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors decreased by 6 basis points to 10.08 percent. The average interest rate on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 20 basis points to 7.44 percent for loans up to 250,000 euros, while for loans above 250,000 euros and up to 1.0 million euros it decreased marginally by 2 basis points to 6.37 percent, and for loans above 1.0 million euros it decreased by 36 basis points to 5.46 percent. Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year remained basically unchanged at 3.00 percent. As a result of the above developments the average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations further decreased, in September 2012, by 11 basis points to 5.77 percent.
In September 2012 the overall average interest rate on outstanding amounts of all deposits remained almost unchanged, while the corresponding rate on all loans slightly decreased. In particular, in September 2012, the average interest rates on outstanding amounts of deposits from households and non-financial corporations with an agreed maturity of up to 2 years decreased by 4 and 5 basis points to 4.65 percent and 4.51 percent respectively. The average interest rate on outstanding amounts of loans with over five years' maturity decreased by 4 basis points to 3.25 percent for housing loans, by 8 basis to 4.78 percent for corporate loans, and by 4 basis points to 6.12 percent for loans to sole proprietors.
The overall average interest rate on all deposits (including overnight deposits) remained almost unchanged at 2.86 percent, while the corresponding rate on all loans decreased by 3 basis points to 5.91 percent.
 IMF sees good progress in talks with GreeceNEW YORK (AMNA / P. Panagiotou)
The International Monetary Fund announced on Thursday that "good progress" has been made in in taxation and structural reforms in Greece, although financing issues still remained the main obstacle for the country to receive more bailout funds.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice, speaking to reporters here, said progress had been made and an agreement could come "soon," but discussions continued about the sustainability of Greece's debt. He added that an agreement could be reached soon on the main issues of economic policies and underlined that the financing for the program has to be consistent with debt sustainability.
 Greece among major exporters of farm products to EU, OECD countriesGreece is among the top five suppliers of farm products exported to a total of 26 countries with over a 70 pct share in their imports, according to a survey conducted by the Panhellenic Exporters Association and the Exports Research Centre (KEEM).
Greece is the number one supplier of 35 farm products exported to 14 countries, the second largest supplier of 23 products in 17 countries and third largest supplier of 20 products in 13 countries. Also, Greece is the fourth largest supplier of 17 products in 10 countries and the fifth largest exporter of 12 products in 10 countries.
The report lists Greece among the major suppliers of primary sector products exported to EU and OECD countries.
 Deputy FM to sign bilateral economic agreement in S. AfricaThe signing of a bilateral economic cooperation agreement will seal a visit by Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Tsiaras to South Africa this week.
The agreement will be signed on Friday with South African Transport Minister Benedict Martins and is aimed at enhancing and expanding economic ties between the two countries, encouraging cooperation between enterprises, and promoting investments.
Within the framework of his visit, Tsiaras will travel to Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban to meet with representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church and the local Greek communities.
On Wednesday, he met in Johannesburg with Metropolitan Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria and visited the Greek community's Home for the Elderly and the Greek South African School S.A.H.E.T.I.
The deputy minister will visit the Greek Studies Department at the University of Johannesburg and a school in Soweto. He is also scheduled to meet with the Metropolitan of the Cape of Good Hope.
 "Greece All Time Classic" the new tourism campaign sloganGreece's new tourism campaign targeting the global market, launched by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) under the slogan "Greece All Time Classic", was unveiled by Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Thursday.
"Greece is more than its current image," Kefalogianni said,, adding that "crises come and go...Greece still is and always be a strong brand-name."
She also stressed that "restoring the country's reputation is the only choice that will allow our country to regain development and prosperity."
Nikos Karahalios, GNTO secretary, reminded that Greece still lists among the world's top 20 travel destinations.
 Greek PMI falls to 41 points in Oct.Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 41 points in October, down from 42.2 in September, evidence of a deteriorating environment in the manufacturing sector.
The index fell to four-month lows, reflecting an accelerating decline in employment and a small deterioration of suppliers' performance. The manufacturing sector was hit not only by reduced demand from the domestic economy, but from a further significant decline in export orders. Greek manufacturers lowered their production levels intensively in October, with the production of intermediate products falling with the fastest rate since June. New orders fell significantly, with orders from abroad falling with the fastest rate since January 2009.
Greek manufacturing enterprises also further reduced their workforce in October, while inventories fell significantly during the month. Average inflow prices rose in October, reflecting higher raw material prices.
The PMI is a composite index measuring business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 Greek- German meeting in ThessalonikiThe city of Thessaloniki will host on November 15 and 16 the "3rd Greek-German council of the Greece-Germany network of peripheries, municipalities and citizens?.
The meeting will focus on the further enhancement of the role and the efficiency of local administration and promoting Greek-German cooperation.
Also, Thessaloniki Mayor Yannis Boutaris will be in Cologne from 9 to 11 November, where he will meet with the Mayor of Cologne and participate in a meeting of the Association of Greek-German Unions.
Municipality of Thessaloniki and Cologne are twinned cities, and in 2013 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their twinning.
 British embassy hosts event on Single Digital MarketThe British embassy in Athens hosted an event on the EU Single Digital Market, on Thursday, attended by a number of government officials, diplomats and entrepreneurs in the new technologies sectors.
The event focused on the development of electronic transactions allowing interborder transportation of products and services via the Internet.
Attendants heard a number of speakers expounding on the sector's potential with regard to growth and creating new jobs, especially in Greece as the country lags most European counties in Internet use.
 Nationwide strike on November 6 and 7Greece's two major umbrella labor federations GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively, have declared a 48-hour nationwide strike on November 6 and 7.
The federations demand that the regulations included in the package of austerity measures that will be tabled on Monday in parliament not be passed. Moreover, they have organised rallies and demonstrations on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday afternoon in Athens.
Similar rallies and protests will be held in Thessaloniki, Volos, Ioannina, Heraklio (Crete) and Patras.
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary Bernadette Segol, in a letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, expresses the rage and disappointment of the European trade unions over the new harsh package of austerity measures and calls ont he Greek government to not adopt them.
Moreover, a Europe-wide labor strike is being prepared for November 14. Labour unions from Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal have already decided to participate in the strike, while the prospect remains open for the participation of the trade unions of Germany and France.
 Seamen to join Nov. 6-7 general strikeShips will remain at anchor throughout Greece on November 6-7 following a decision on Thursday by the Greek seamen's union federation PNO to join a 48-hour general strike declared by the country's two largest umbrella trade union organisations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY.
The PNO General Council also decided to protect the current legal framework for ferry lines and asked that a civil conscription for seamen in force for the last two years be lifted.
PNO went on to reaffirm its opposition to the transfer of property belonging to the seamen's pension fund NAT and other agencies supervised by the fund to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
 Healthcare services, pharmacies to join next week's strike actionState hospitals, health centres, chronic ailment hospices and the ambulance service will be operating on skeleton staff from next Monday to Wednesday, following a three-day strike declared by the hospital doctors' union federation OENGE, while the national pharmacists' association has decided that all pharmacies throughout the country will be closed on November 7.
According to the hospital doctors' union federation, the strike is held in protest against the latest round of austerity cuts that decimate their wages and pensions, dismantle their social insurance fund and make the "exercise of our profession difficult to impossible".
It also urged the "blocking of all funds and the free examination of all patients at hospitals one day a week, specifically every Wednesday".
The strike action is timed to coincide with a 48-hour strike declared on November 6-7 by the country's largest umbrella trade union organisations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union federation ADEDY.
Also joining in the strike is the union federation for public hospital staff POEDHN.
 Measures against fare dodgers prove effectiveFollowing a plummeting course over the past eight years, public transport revenues are showing signs of recovery, the ministry of development, infrastructure, transport and networks announced on Thursday.
Official figures released by the ministry show an increase of 9.9 pct in ticket sales between Sept. 24 (when intensive inspections were launched in an effort to curb the problem of fare dodgers) and Oct. 28. In the past few months, ticket sales recorded a considerable decline reaching up to 21 pct in the months of July and August.
In the past month alone, inspectors handed out fines totaling 443,524 euros. The sum of 14,826 euros was collected on the spot.
According to the figures, 62 pct of the violators were fare dodgers, while fake public transport tickets corresponded to 4.3 pct of the violations.
A special offer of one free ticket for every 10 used ones is expected to be in effect shortly.
 Business Briefs-- Eurobank Securities topped the list of the most active securities firms in the Athens Stock Exchange in October, with a market share of 14.71 pct, followed by National Securities (12.68 pct), Investment Bank of Greece (10.63 pct), Euroxx (6.88 pct), Piraeus Securities (6.75 pct), Alpha Finance (5.61 pct), Solidus (2.73 pct), BETA (2.72 pct), Pantelakis (2.33 pct) and Sarris (1.93 pct).
 Stocks extend free-fall for 6th sessionStocks ended sharply lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by political uncertainties in the country.
Analysts said the market was increasingly worried that the government could not ensure the necessary majority to pass a new package of austerity measures in Parliament despite reassuring comments made by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
Comments made by German government officials that there are still several issues pending in talks between Greece and the EC-ECB-IMF troika, also dampened sentiment on the market.
The composite index plunged 5.0 pct to end at 761.24 points, extending its decline for the sixth consecutive session during which the index has suffered a loss of 14.45 pct. Turnover was a strong 106.395 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 6.48 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 5.85 pct lower.
All sectors ended lower with the exception of the food sector (+0.21 pct). Banks (12.15 pct), Utilities (10.21 pct), Financial Services (8.83 pct) and Raw Materials (8.73 pct) were top losers. Titan (0.97 pct) and Coca Cola Hellenic (0.24 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Piraeus Bank (16.11 pct), Cyprus Bank (13.19 pct), MIG (12.28 pct), National Bank (11.73 pct), Alpha Bank (11.11 pct), PPC (10.63 pct) and Eurobank (10.11 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 112 to 23 with another 16 issues unchanged. Pegasus (20 pct), Kathimerini (18.69 pct) and Athina (16.49 pct) were top gainers, while Forthnet (19.20 pct), Audiovisual (18.52 pct) and Cyclon (18.06 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.44%
Personal & Household: -6.53%
Raw Materials: -8.73%
Travel & Leisure: -6.83%
Food & Beverages: +0.21%
Financial Services: -8.83%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Bank of Piraeus and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.60
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.95
HBC Coca Cola: 16.54
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.91
National Bank of Greece: 1.58
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.81
Bank of Piraeus: 0.35
 Greek bond market closingThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 16.74 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 18.22 pct and the German Bund 1.48 pct. Turnover was a thin 4.0 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 0.62 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.50 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.38 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.97 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a strong 32.871 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,643 contracts worth 16.421 million euros, with 29,332 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 94,642 contracts worth 16.450 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (29,443), followed by Cyprus Bank (9,077), Alpha Bank (15,621), MIG (928), OTE (4,818), PPC (3,860), OPAP (6,230), Piraeus Bank (15,340), Cyprus Popular Bank (1,656), Mytilineos (1,048), Eurobank (1,296) and Intralot (1,092).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FrdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.317
Pound sterling 0.815
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 8.769
Japanese yen 105.38
Swiss franc 1.225
Norwegian kroner 7.481
Canadian dollar 1.316
Australian dollar 1.267
 Papoulias meets with representatives of large families' associationPresident Karolos Papoulias on Thursday met at the Presidential Mansion in Athens with representatives of the Supreme Confederation of Multi-Child Parents of Greece (ASPE) -- families with four or more children -- and expressed an "understanding" to their demands, a statement read.
He underlined that he will convey their request to Education Minister Costas Arvanitopoulos to have the children of large families exempt from the transfer ban affecting university students. He also clarified that as far as economic demands are concerned he cannot intervene, noting that "tough decisions have been made in an effort to pull the country out of the difficult situation is in".
 Niarchos cultural centre construction underwayThe construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) at the Faliro Delta in southern coastal Athens is underway as of Sept. 28.
The cultural, educational, and recreational complex, designed by noted Italian architect Renzo Piano, will house the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.
The 324-million-euro project funded entirely by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is scheduled to be completed in 38 months.
 Exhibition on the British presence in ThessalonikiAn exhibition on the British presence in Thessaloniki and the region of Macedonia in northern Greece will open on Monday at the Museum of Macedonian Struggle in cooperation with the British embassy, the British Council and the City of Thessaloniki.
On display will be travel memoirs, newspapers, consulate reports and art produced by members of the military, travelers, missionaries, archaeologists and artists, that have preserved a variety of priceless documents and information, allowing visitors to realize the multifaceted relation between Great Britain and the region of Macedonia.
British ambassador to Athens David Landsman will inaugurate the exhibition featuring objects from the museum's collection and a number of private collections.
Earlier, British historian and former British ambassador to Athens Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith will deliver a lecture at the Thessaloniki Metropolis Cultural Centre on Greece's expansion to the new countries.
The exhibition will run until Dec. 31, 2012.
 Top executive of private power company remanded in custodyOne of the senior executives charged in connection with the activities of the private electricity providers Energa and Hellas Power was remanded in custody after testifying before an examining magistrate on Thursday. Additional charges of illegal trade and money-laundering were brought against the five top executives arrested earlier this week, in connection with tens of millions of euros owed by the two companies to the state sector for sales of electricity.
Both the magistrate and public prosecutor in charge of the case agreed that Haralambos Smyrliadis should be remanded in custody after his lengthy testimony. Others arrested in connection with the same case were Aristidis and Achilleas Floros, Vassilis Milionis and Stefanos Siafakas.
The charges against the Energa and Hellas Power executives concern the companies' failure to pay a special tax for consumption of electric power and for transferring the amounts owed to bank accounts abroad. For this reason, the five are being charged as if they were part of a criminal organisation.
Other pending charges against the two companies concern embezzlement from the state for failure to pay the property levy and breach of faith compounded by laws for the embezzlement of public funds and money laundering. Eleven suspects are charged in connection with the specific case, including top executives from Energa and Hellas Power but also from the now defunct Hellenic Transmission System Operator.
The additional charges and arrest warrants against the five executives were based on new evidence concerning bank accounts and off-shore companies that they own in Cyprus, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Singapore.
 Notorious escaped convict apprehendedNotorious escaped convict Mihalis Makriyannis, who had disappeared in August while on furlough from a Larissa prison, was re-arrested in the first hours of Thursday.
The fugitive was found in an apartment in Peristeri. Three more suspects, a Greek woman and two foreign nationals who were in the same apartment were also taken in for questioning.
Police are investigating Makriyannis' activities in the period he was a fugitive.
Mihalis Makriyannis, on August 2, 2012 failed to return from a Larissa prison after a five-day furlough. His disappearance was the second time that the convicted felon left a prison on leave but did not return.
Makriyannis was serving five life sentences for murder, three attempted murder convictions and armed robbery.
His first furlough/escape came in July 2006 when he did not return to a prison in Crete. He was found and arrested 15 months later in Athens by coincidence, while driving a stolen vehicle.
He was convicted in the early 1990s for the murder of a waiter in Trikala, central Greece, a girlfriend in the east Attica municipality of Keratea, a postman in the coastal resort of Legrena, SE of Athens, and the armed robbery of a nightclub in October 1993, where he killed his friend's brother, the nightclub's cashier, and injured two more people.
 Repatriations of illegal migrants continueA total of 1,531 non-EU foreign nationals were repatriated to their home countries in October within the framework of efforts aimed at tackling illegal migration in Greece.
Of them, 717 were repatriated as part of a Greek Police (EL.AS) deportation operation for lacking legal documents. Most of deportees (204) were destined for Pakistan, 159 for Bangladesh and 65 for Albania. The foreign nationals returned to their countries on board scheduled and chartered flights from Athens' International Airport.
Other 814 individuals returned to their countries in an operation launched by authorities in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
A total of 3,666 foreign nationals have been repatriated since August 2012.
The readmission programme for illegal migrants is financed by the European Return Fund and national resources.
 Bull fatally injures elderly man in northern GreeceAn 82-year-old man was attacked and fatally injured by a bull in a farming area in Kilkis prefecture, northern Greece.
According to police the bull broke into the elderly man's garden and attacked him, fatally injuring him in several parts of the body.
The 61-year-old owner of the bull was arrested, charged with homicide due to negligence.
 Robbers flee with 120,000 euros lootThree unknown individuals on Thursday threatened at gunpoint mailmen in Anogia on Crete island and took off with 120,000 euros in loot.
The robbery took place early in morning and the gunmen, who had their faces covered, stopped the mailmen's car and forced them out of the vehicle, grabbed the bags with the cash and fled in the direction of the mountainous area of Mt Psiloritis.
Police later found the robbers' vehicle abandoned and burned. A manhunt is underway to locate the suspects.
The mailmen had taken delivery of the money from the Anogia branch of ATEbank (the Agricultural Bank of Greece) for the payment of pensions.
 Kuwaiti national water polo team involved in traffic accidentA mini-bus carrying the Kuwaiti national water polo team was involved in a car accident on Wednesday afternoon along Thessaloniki-Nea Moudania stretch of the national highway in northern Greece.
According to police a car driven by a 31-year-old man rammed into the back of the mini-bus which was driven by a 48-year-old an. The mini-bus was carrying 16 passengers, among them the Kuwaiti national water polo team players, their coaches, and the young daughter of the driver and a friend of hers.
Both vehicles swerved off course and overturned.
The mini-bus passengers were sent to nearby hospitals and according to information suffered only minor injuries. Only a 31-year-old water polo player is more seriously injured.
The car driver was arrested and following a breathalyzer test it was found that he was driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Kuwaiti national water polo team in the last days has been staying in a Halkidiki sports resort for training, and at the time of the accident it was on its way to Posidonio pool, in Thessaloniki, for a friendly match with the local PAOK water polo team.
 Tempi valley closed between November 5-9The Tempi valley, in central Greece, will be closed again from November 5-9 due to cleaning and maintenance work that will be carried out.
Traffic will follow alternative routes over the above period and from 07:00 until 20:00 daily and from the section from the Gyrtonis junction to the Stomio intersection.
 Athens Metro, ISAP trains idle due to strike on Fri.The Athens Metro and ISAP train service will not be running on Friday due to a 24-hour strike called by the rail employees in protest of a bill ratified by Parliament on Wednesday on public utilities and organizations.
 Five arrested with 125 kg of cannabisPolice have found hidden in bushes in Vrysella Filiates, in Thesprotia, north western Greece, four travel bags containing 109 packets with cannabis weighing 125 kilos.
An ensuing investigation revealed that the drugs had been concealed at the location by five Albanian illegal immigrants aged 21, 30, 24, 42 and 38, who have been arrested and will be brought before a prosecutor.
 Fisherman missing in Thracian SeaA 28-year-old fisherman on Thursday was declared missing in the sea region of Imeros, northeastern Greece.
The man was on a fishing boat and set sail from Porto Lagos on Thursday morning, but the vessel disappeared later under unknown conditions while sailing in the Thracian Sea.
A search and rescue operation by sea and air is underway.
 Cloudy on FridayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-6 beauforte. Temperatures between 8C and 27C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-5 beauforte winds and temperatures between 12C and 25C. Fair in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 22C.
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