ECONOMY

In Brief

Finance Ministry cuts grants in view of expense overruns Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis signed a decision for 20-40 percent cuts in government grants, aiming to ease pressure on budget targets following a 24 percent rise in expenditure in the first two months of the year – against a target of 6 percent. The measure includes a 30 percent cut in grants to the civil servants’ fund, which, owing to its already serious financial straits, has difficulty in paying its dues to pharmacies. Other cuts will affect summer camps, colleges and universities, Greek schools and teachers abroad, urban transport in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greek contributions to NATO projects, college textbooks and students’ welfare. No progress apparent over OKTA dispute after Athens talks Talks between the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Branko Crvenkovski and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos in Athens yesterday over a stalemate concerning state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum’s (ELPE) investment in FYROM’s OKTA refinery appeared to have yielded no results. The FYROM government contends that OKTA, 80 percent owned by ELPE, enjoys monopolistic privileges under the acquisition agreement reached with its predecessor, and has been asking for a review. The two sides began talks in late February. Tsochadzopoulos avoided questions over the issue, saying the talks had been about cooperation over energy in general – including natural gas, river water management and the possible extension of the Thessaloniki-Skopje oil pipeline to Kosovo. Sources said, however, that FYROM is unfavorably disposed to such a plan. Crvenkovski made no statement. Talks are expected to resume in Skopje at the end of the month. TVX mine Consultations over an investors’ scheme to reactivate TVX Hellas’s gold mine in Halkidiki, northern Greece, are reported to be making progress and an announcement may be made soon. The scheme is said to have been initiated by the Alpha Group of business consultants, headed by Vassilis Tsilibardis, which owns 24 percent of TVX Hellas, whose Canadian parent company is now controlled by the Kinross group. The new owners have reportedly expressed interest in participating with a 20 percent share in the scheme, which apparently will also involve Cypriot interests. The plan is said to envisage an investment of 1 billion euros for the production of gold, copper and silver. The original TVX Hellas scheme was abandoned after considerable reaction by local residents citing environmental hazards. IAS The compulsory compilation of financial statements of listed firms according to International Accounting Standards (IAS) as of this year will only apply to annual and not periodic statements, according to a draft bill tabled in Parliament. Product promotion The Exporters Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) is inviting expressions of interest in participating in a promotion program for farm products certified for quality, as organic, or as being of regulated label of origin.