ECONOMY

In Brief

Finance Ministry goes for tax collection drive in the fall Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis has instructed tax offices to launch an autumn drive to collect overdue taxes. The push will mainly affect small and medium-sized enterprises, self-employed professionals and companies suspected of tax evasion. Priority will be given to firms in advertising, graphic arts, construction and building materials. The incidence of tax evasion in the construction sector has been estimated around 47 percent, and in the services sector at 40 percent. Inspectors will also focus on firms dealing in goods or services subject to different VAT rates, those often submitting VAT declarations late or amending them, and those frequently claiming back-tax credits. The ministry last week announced a plan for a point-system for tax offenses, which it claims will improve relations between taxpayers and authorities. Government intensifies efforts for consumer protection Deputy Development Minister Kimon Koulouris said 50 catering establishments and 60 parking lot operating firms have been referred to public prosecutors for violating market rules. He announced that minimum fines will be raised fivefold to 730 euros for adulterating food that is spoiled or selling it at exorbitant prices, and more than twofold for failure to display signs indicating quality and origin, and for failing to display price lists. The minimum for such violations rises to 200 euros and the maximum to 6,000 euros. Another measure being considered is empowering inspectors to impose on-the-spot fines. New rules will oblige industries and importers to give 30-days’ notice of price hikes; prominently display price lists in all restaurants, bars, cafeterias and canteens; have the quality and origin of fish, meat and cheese clearly indicated; and have the maximum prices of bottled water and refreshments in airports, archaeological sites, hospitals and places of public entertainment printed on the products. Officials said it is a violation for restaurants to serve bottled water without clients asking for it. Koulouris said he expects to agree with private school owners on fee hikes of up to four percent. Beopetrol sale Serbia decided yesterday to sell a 79.5-percent share in its second largest fuel chain, Beopetrol, to the Russian oil giant LUKoil for 207 million euros, Beta news agency reported. The rest of the shares are held by employees. The final contract is expected to be signed by September 24. The only other serious bidder was the Hungarian oil company MOL, which offered 101 million euros for Beopetrol. According to the tender announcement published in April, Beopetrol employs 1,650 workers and has about 180 gas stations in Serbia, including some in the UN-administrated province of Kosovo. It also owns seven oil depots and controls about 17 percent of the Serbian oil market. (AFP) Budget talk Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis apparently hopes to minimize pressures for income and spending increases in the public sector by bringing forward the tabling of the 2004 budget in Parliament to the end of September, sources said. The minister has scheduled key budget meetings for the next few days.