Christodoulakis dismisses gloom, urges firms to invest more Buoyed by the sizable fall in the inflation rate in April, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday played down fears of a deterioration in the Greek economy in coming years. «The pressure resulting from the geopolitical uncertainties of the Iraq war and extremely bad weather conditions has begun relenting… The de-escalation of inflation to such a large degree shows that the improvement in the economy has begun gradually but systematically, and I believe both growth and inflation rates will increasingly come to correspond to the annual targets we have set,» he said. The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) had warned on Thursday that the country’s poor competitiveness and lack of foreign investment could push the unemployment rate from nearly 10 percent to 18 percent in a few years. Christodoulakis urged entrepreneurs to take advantage of incentives, the «very important tax reform and the extensive simplification of requisite licenses» and invest. He said continued alertness was needed to tap the opportunities of the Greek economy and minimize problems, such as this week’s announcement by Swiss company Schiesser Pallas that it was closing its Athens factory and relocating in Bulgaria. Christodoulakis castigated the fact that the firm had obtained Greek investment subsidies and said there would be no subsidization of the emigration of firms, saying the government would do its utmost to prevent job losses. Finally, he said, Philip Morris’s announced acquisition of Papastratos tobacco firm was indicative of the Greek economy’s new character, potential and problems. EETT warns against provision of services at below-cost rates The National Telecommunications and Posts Commission (EETT) issued a warning to OTE Telecom that its offer of national long-distance calls at city call rates during the last Christmas holiday constituted a violation of competition principles. EETT argued that being below cost, the offered rates undermined competitors’ survival and, ultimately, consumers’ interests. Olympic benefits Next year’s Olympic Games will yield significant direct and long-term benefits to the country, Athens 2004 Managing Director Yiannis Spanoudakis said. «The Games give us the opportunity to boost the credibility of the country in the eyes of the global community… (They will also bequeath) a permanent improvement in the quality of life for millions of people, which alone would justify the size of the investment,» he said. He added the event will have a favorable effect on employment, while its impact on GDP growth would be around 0.50 percent this year and between 0.93 and 1.34 percent in 2004. Retail awards F&K Lemonis, owners of Kalogirou and Haralas chains, have received the top Retailer 2003 award. Other awards went to Starbucks (Retail Rising Star), Theodoros Vardas (top manager), Veropoulos Bros (most successful Greek firm abroad), Goody’s and Fortune (most successful ad campaigns) and to Eleftheroudakis bookshop on Panepistimiou (top Greek store). Distinctions went to Carrefour as top private employer and northern Greek supermarket chain Masoutis for growth outside the capital.