SMEs air grievances, call for nationwide shutdown Taxes paid by small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) have risen by 453 percent over the last nine years, while their net, income-adjusted rise has been just 273 percent, GSEBEE, the sector’s representative body, said. GSEBEE complained that «blanket» tax settlement procedures for past years have imposed additional taxes of 3.5 million euros, forcing businesses to borrow more at unjustifiably high rates. It also called for the resignation of the Athens bourse chairman, Panayiotis Alexakis, as during his tenure thousands of traders and consumers faced great losses. It further noted a drastic fall in state contributions to pension funds at the expense of SMEs, which have not benefited at all from EU investment subsidies or Olympic projects. GSEBEE has called for a nationwide shutdown of shops and manufacturing units during the first shift on March 21 and in case of war against Iraq, which it describes as aggressive and unjust. ASE denies derivatives report, says it is well prepared for emergencies The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) denied press reports yesterday that its derivatives market was to be placed under supervision. «The ASE has plans for dealing with crises and emergencies, and is in contact with financial authorities, the Finance Ministry and other European bourses. It continuously monitors developments and adopts the appropriate measures and actions, as in periods of crisis and important developments in the past that were ultimately overcome,» it said in a statement. The ASE also denied reports that low-priced stocks would be struck off its trading list. Hotels The Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation (POX) yesterday called on the government to ensure Greece’s tourism promotion abroad, for tax breaks to boost liquidity and competitiveness, and for investment subsidies. «Greek tourism is going through one of its most difficult periods in the last 25 years,» said POX in a statement, noting that given the uncertainty arising from the prospect of war, tour operators are withholding deposits and asking for large discounts. Casinos The government has tabled a draft bill introducing a new legal status for the two hitherto state-owned casinos of Mont Parnes and Corfu, in view of their privatization. The bill includes provisions regarding the casinos’ viability, worker and state rights. Quality The Hellenic Business Management Association (EEDE), in collaboration with Switzerland’s SAQ, is starting its seventh annual program leading to the Diploma in Quality Systems Management, certified by the European Organization of Quality. The program, which begins March 19, ends in December. For further info, call 210.211.2000, or fax 210.211.2020-1, or send e-mail to [email protected] Interest rates NovaBank is the first to bring down a number of its mortgage and credit card rates, in response to the European Central Bank’s recent 0.25 percent basic rate reduction. Laiki Cyprus-based Laiki Bank has picked Ashley&Holmes to run its new advertising campaign in Greece. Its advertising account was previously held by IN Leousis.