Ministry: Public finances in line with annual targets The Finance Ministry said yesterday that public finances are proceeding well in line with annual budget targets, which are projected to be attained more or less on target. Total revenues in the seven months to July reached 23.18 billion euros, up 5 percent year-on-year – against an annual targeted increase of 5.1 percent – and representing 56.5 percent of the projected budget total. Primary expenses in the same period reached 17.92 billion euros, or 59.8 percent of the budget total, and 6.3 percent higher year-on-year, against an annual target of 6 percent. Interest payments amounted to 7.26 billion euros, against an annual provision of 9.40 billion, which the ministry is confident will be attained given that payments in coming months will be sharply lower. The only divergence is noted on the revenue side of the budget’s Public Investment Program, due to time-consuming procedures involved in the disbursement of EU structural fund subsidies under the Community Support Framework investment plan. Such divergences should be lessened in coming months as the pace of applications for disbursement accelerates. OTE begins sinking underwater cable link OTE Telecom began sinking a new underwater cable yesterday to link Greece with Italy, a project that will help support increased communication traffic expected during next year’s Olympic Games. OTE said the underwater part of the fiberoptic cable will run between the island of Corfu and the Italian port of Bari, while another land cable will connect Corfu to several Greek cities. The cable, to be delivered by the end of the year, will increase OTE’s capacity to service western European destinations such as Frankfurt, London and Paris. The cable will handle data, voice and video at high speeds. OTE did not say how much the project will cost. The cable, built in cooperation with Paris-based telecommunications services provider Alcatel, will also be able to support the intensified volume expected during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games next year. (AP) Private port Depots SA is launching the operation of Greece’s first private port near the installations of Hellenic Shipyards in Skaramangas, west of Athens on September 4. The facility will have a seafront of 357 meters and a depth of 10.5 meters, and will serve commercial ferry boats, which are soon to be phased out from the central port of Piraeus. Depots SA said the port has easy access to highways. Aluminium Aluminium of Greece yesterday reported a 48.2 percent fall in group pretax earnings in the first half to 11.8 million euros, year-on-year, on a 15.3 percent fall in sales to 161.1 million. The deterioration is mainly attributed to the average 23 percent slide in the value of the US dollar against the euro and higher oil prices in the first quarter. Building activity Private building activity rose 10.2 percent in volume in the January-April period, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said. Mortgages rose 33 percent while their balance exceeded 23 billion euros. The highest increase was recorded in Central Greece (59.6 percent), western Macedonia (21.2 percent) and the Ionian Islands (20.1 percent).