Specter of war fuels price rises and fears of economic slowdown The EU Fiscal Stability Pact contains provisions for unforeseen developments, such as the repercussions of a war, but, for the time being, there is no issue of relaxing national fiscal policies, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said in Brussels, where he is chairing meetings of the Eurogroup and Ecofin. He said the protracted uncertainty gives rise to negative pressures on the European economy, and sided with Commission estimates of a slowdown in the first quarter of 2003. He discounted fears of an unfavorable impact on Greek tourism, saying, «Greece is a safe country.» On a gloomier note, the chairman of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Drakoulis Fountoukakos, said a war in Iraq would fuel inflation with a rise in oil prices and have serious repercussions on key sectors of the Greek economy, including tourism. Already, tourism professionals are reporting cancellations, he added. Today’s Ecofin meeting will focus on energy taxation. According to the Development Ministry, fuel price hikes have reached as much as 40 percent in the last 15 days, especially of heating diesel. Bad weather has also sent the prices of some fresh garden produce soaring by up to 70 percent and the situation is expected to take a turn for the worse. Olympic housing plan under threat Government inertia threatens to derail efforts to find private flats for foreign visitors during the 2004 Athens Olympics, Greek property developers complained yesterday. To make sure that the flats offered for rental during the Games reached the required standard, the 2004 Games organizers picked by tender two consortia, Alpha Hospitality 2004 and Hellenic Hospitality, to find appropriate housing. But the government has so far failed to pass a law imposing a high fee on independent developers seeking to do the same job outside official channels, the two consortia complained. (AFP) Rents One in 10 tenants enters the wrong tax registration numbers of their landlords on their annual tax returns and thereby loses the right to the relevant tax break, the Finance Ministry’s information systems department said. Also, one in three landlords omits declaring rents received or declare lower amounts. Shipping More than 80 senior bank staff have set up the Association of Bank and Financial Staff for the Greek Merchant Marine, whose aims include the promotion of Piraeus as an international financial center for shipping, the study of industry funding issues and relevant training of members. The new body, which elected Alexandros Tourkolias of the National Bank of Greece as chairman, is sending membership invites to senior shipping firm finance officers and expects membership to exceed 200 in a few months. Software Microsoft Business Solutions plans to launch a Greek edition of its Navision 3.60 program for mid-sized enterprises in the summer. The company recently entered the Greek market as part of Microsoft Hellas. Visa The Greek Postal Service (ELTA) has launched its own Visa Gold and Visa Classic credit cards, with a 9 percent interest rate, Greece’s lowest. ELTA now also provides a money transfer service.