Alexakis sees light at the end of the tunnel The accounting scandals that eroded confidence in stock markets during 2002 are over and 2003 will be a better year, despite the current insecurity, Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) Chairman Panayiotis Alexakis said in Thessaloniki. The ASE’s performance has not fared much worse than other stock markets and Greek investors will have to keep a cool head in view of a possible war in Iraq, as experience shows that any fall after such events is short-lived, he said. The Hellenic Exchanges group, of which the ASE is a member, expects a study on restructuring in about two months’ time, and this may include mergers among the seven members and cuts in staff. Alexakis said he expects that the cooperative scheme being promoted among the bourses of Athens, Istanbul and Tel Aviv will have been finalized within the first half of 2003; a trilateral meeting is scheduled in Athens for February 21. Ministers review progress of schemes with Balkan neighbors The Greek Plan for Balkan Economic Recovery is developing satisfactorily, deputy ministers of Economy Christos Pachtas and of Foreign Affairs Andreas Loverdos said in Thessaloniki. Figures they cited, however, appear to refute the claim, as there have been only 13 proposals for aid to public sector projects (eight in Serbia, three in Albania and one each in Montenegro and Bosnia), that were planned to absorb 80 percent of the 550-million-euro investment subsidies. As regards the remaining 20 percent (107 million euros) destined for private productive investment, 24 proposals submitted to date have come from Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria and Romania but half the money has been earmarked for Yugoslavia. Loverdos suggested the allocation of funds may be restructured in favor of private investment schemes in future, as called for by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV). In another part of the city, Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys said in a press conference after welcoming his counterparts from Bulgaria, Romania, FYROM and representatives of Turkey and Croatia visiting the ongoing Agrotica exhibition, that Balkan economies have common denominators and must promote common prospects. He said cooperation among them should be intensified in view of forthcoming changes in EU agriculture and Greece can play a substantial role in this as current EU president. GNTO Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) Chairman Yiannis Patellis has given instructions for analytic appraisals of the agency’s participation at tourism shows abroad. This will include cost data over time and cost-benefit analysis per tourist from the countries where the GNTO participates in exhibitions. He also wants a review of Greece’s tourism advertising campaign abroad this year and a plan for 2004. Romtelecom The Romanian government yesterday signed the agreement for the acquisition of a 54 percent interest in the country’s telecom utility, Romtelecom, by Greece’s OTE. Phoenix Insurance firm Phoenix on Monday will decide to lay off about 50 employees on annual contracts that have been renewed for a number of years, sources said.