ECONOMY

No need for policy change, minister says

The government will not take any emergency measures to shore up the economy, other than continuing to implement the 2003 budget and combat inflation, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis declared last night, after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss the repercussions of a likely war in Iraq. «In the current negative international climate, the goal of the economic policy is for the Greek economy to hold on, continuing with its high growth and dealing with temporary negative conditions in a way that will not have permanent effects for the future,» Christodoulakis told reporters after his meeting with Simitis, which began at 7.30 p.m. and lasted over two hours. Also present at the meeting were Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, responsible for managing the inflow of European Union aid under the Third Community Support Framework program, and Simitis’s economic adviser, Ghikas Hardouvelis. «We believe that these (global) problems, despite their effect on the Greek economy, are not long-term ones; for this reason, it is not necessary for economic policy to either resort to spending cuts and social program cutbacks or to go to the other, populist, extreme and increase spending under the guise of boosting demand,» Christodoulakis said, adding that the economy can withstand current difficulties and go on growing at a fast rate. Last year, Greece’s economy grew 4 percent, the fastest rate among industrialized countries; the eurozone grew by only 0.8 percent in 2002. «The last example of this (fast growth) is the considerable decline in unemployment and the creation of tens of thousands of jobs,» Christodoulakis said. Unemployment below 10 pct He was referring to data released earlier yesterday by the National Statistics Service (NSS) showing that unemployment in the last quarter of 2002 had declined to 9.7 percent, from 10.9 percent in the same period in 2001. The average unemployment rate for 2002 was 9.9 percent. The number of employed in the final quarter of last year was 3.966 million, 103,000 more than in the same period in 2001. The number of unemployed stood at 428,000, of which 172,000 are newcomers to the job market.