ECONOMY

In Brief

Greece falls further behind in terms of competitiveness For a second consecutive year in 2003, Greece receded in terms of competitiveness this year among 29 countries with population under 20 million, from 21st to 26th place, according to the annual report of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), presented by the Association of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) yesterday. Greece’s overall grading rose to 34.1 out of 100 from 31.7 in 2002, but its economy was found to have seriously lapsed behind others in terms of performance, governance, business environment and infrastructure. In economic performance, Greece was debited with falling exports and foreign investment and rising unemployment, in governance with red tape and opaque procedures, in the business environment with inadequate worker training and inflexible banking regulations, and in infrastructure with large energy imports and high population concentration in large urban centers. On the positive side, Greece was second in terms of GDP growth per head, fifth in GDP growth, eighth in lowest cost-of-living index, fourth in the use of factoring, 10th in the cost of electric power to industry and fifth in the low cost of Internet use. EU launches campaign against hazardous substances at work An estimated 20 percent, or 32 million working people in the EU, are exposed to carcinogenic substances in the workplace which certain studies indicate to be the cause of 4 percent of all cancers, EU Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou said yesterday at the launching in Strasbourg of the first European campaign against occupational and health hazards related to the use of chemical and toxic substances at the workplace. She said two-thirds of the 30,000 frequently used products have not been subjected to the necessary tests and only 12 percent of enterprises observe relevant regulations. Skin diseases such as eczema caused by such products often force people to change occupation, as, for instance, an estimated 10 percent of hairdressers. Ecofin Social security and pension systems in EU member states are in need of urgent reform in order to deal with the problems arising from aging populations, Economy Minister and current Ecofin Chairman Nikos Christodoulakis and Economic Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes told a press conference in Brussels yesterday. Christodoulakis said Ecofin’s economic policy recommendations for Greece were fully in line with government policy. Silve & Baryte Mining company Silver & Baryte reported 2002 net group profit growth of 12.7 percent to 16.25 million euros compared to 2001, on virtually level sales of 291.3 million. The firm said in a statement the improvement was largely due to the rationalization of its organizational structure, which led to a reduced tax burden internationally. The board, which will propose a dividend of 0.23 euros – 9.5 percent higher than for 2001- hopes that sales will improve this year, despite a small fall in the first quarter. Athens-London British Airways is adding a fourth flight from Athens to London daily except Thursdays between June 1 and September 30. Flight BA 2641 will depart Athens at 16.25 and arrive Gatwick airport at 18.25 local time.