ECONOMY

In Brief

Reform prospects trigger wave of retirement applications Thousands of employees in the civil service, public utilities and banks, who receive relatively large pensions, applied for early retirement last year, driven by intense speculation on social security reform and encouraged by voluntary exit programs. According to the Federation of Social Security Fund Employees (POPOKP), applications swelled by 62 percent among staff of OTE Telecom, 55 percent among employees of National Bank and civil servants, and 45 percent in the Public Power Corporation. By contrast, applications among private sector workers to the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and other funds which enjoy relatively lower pensions remained at normal levels. However, after the release in the spring of government reform proposals which provided for a period of grace and guaranteed pensions for those with established pension rights, retirement applications fell in September by 33 percent compared to a year earlier. Reppas approves support plan for socially vulnerable groups Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas yesterday approved an invitation for expression of interest from agencies supporting socially vulnerable groups which may wish to submit action plans. The invitation will be officially released in a few days. The so-called Accompanying Supportive Services are subsidized by the European Social Fund, come under the Employment and Vocational Training Entrepreneurial Program and represent a practical application of the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion. The individuals to which action plans may apply include those with physical and mental disabilities, refugees, immigrants, former prisoners, juvenile delinquents, women threatened with social exclusion, the long-term unemployed aged over 45 in areas or sectors of high unemployment and former addicts. The plan for the first phase of the program, to run until 2003, envisages the disbursement of 6 billion drachmas and is estimated to benefit 10,000 individuals. Smart credit cards. Greek commercial banks will issue smart credit and debit cards next year, the Hellenic Bankers’ Association (EET) said yesterday. All existing cards will be gradually converted to smart ones – which carry microchips and are considered safer – with each bank offering additional facilities according to policy. EET has overseen the formulation of a Greek standard setting the minimum functional characteristics of chips for credit cards. All transactions, including purchases, will required the use of the Personal Identification Number (PIN), which will boost security. Marina privatizations. Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) yesterday unsealed the bids of 14 international consortia for the privatization of the marinas of Alimos, Floisvos and Zea on the southern Athens coast. New luxury ferry. Europa Palace, Minoan Lines’ latest acquisition, which was launched in Genoa’s Fincantieri shipyard on Friday, will be introduced in the spring of 2002. The 214-meter-long vessel can carry 1,800 passengers and 600 private cars at a maximum speed of 31 knots. DRY CARGO