Gov’t plans to bring more ships under the Greek flag Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said he will introduce additional measures to boost the competitiveness of the Greek flag after completing meetings with the shipping community shortly. Sources said these will include lifting regulations on the composition of lower crew and the assumption by the government of a major part of seamen’s social insurance contributions, which is hoped will encourage the entry of new recruits into the industry. Anomeritis hosted a reception in Piraeus for the shipping companies that hoisted the Greek flag on 140 vessels of an average age of seven years in 2002. Consumers take aim at banks over mortgages The Consumers’ Association for Quality of Life (EKPOIZO) is filing collective suits against six banks (Alpha, Eurobank, National, Commercial, Aspis, Laiki), asking for the return of «illegally» retained levies in the disbursement of mortgage loans. An Athens court last year found 15 terms in mortgage contracts, charging commission rates of 1-2 percent as «loan expenses,» as illegal and abusive. An appeal against the ruling by the Commercial Bank is pending. Duty-Free Shops IT retailer Germanos and faux-bijoux retailer Folli Follie have renewed their joint letter of guarantee accompanying their bid for 40 percent and the management of Duty-Free Shops (KAE), even though they have refused the Agricultural Bank’s recent demand that they upgrade their offer to 8.25 euros from 6.7 euros. KAE’s results are projected to take a hit this year as a result of the introduction of International Accounting Standards for listed firms. Tourism Greece was voted the favorite destination of Norwegian tourism professionals, winning the Grand Award 2003, with 24 percent, ahead of Thailand and Spain with 21 percent and 18 percent respectively. Suspension The Athens Stock Exchange yesterday decided to temporarily suspend trading of dried fruit and nut firm Kardasilaris until it officially informs investors of the likely consequences on its financial standing of the huge fire that swept through its installations yesterday. Exports The Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) is compiling a guide of all Greek-owned firms active abroad, particularly in the Balkans and the European Union. Apply at http://seve.gr/docs/Grfirms.doc. Construction Home construction rose just 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 from the third quarter, against growth rates of 0.4 and 0.6 percent in the same periods of 2001 and 2000 respectively. This growth rate was 1.6 percent year-on-year. Wages in the industry rose 2.9 percent year-on-year. Never on Sunday Small retailers said they will oppose the proposed broad extension of shop hours during the Olympic Games next year; they favor 50-52 hours a week, excluding Sunday.