ECONOMY

Call for greater competition through stronger watchdog

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) would like Greece to strengthen internal competition by giving more powers to the Competition Commission. This recommendation, along with others, is included in the draft annual report submitted to the government on Monday afternoon. The IMF’s emphasis on competition comes at a time when Greece is making an effort to deregulate important market segments, such as energy and telecommunications. Other sectors, such as banking and insurance, have long been deregulated, but are in need of a strong watchdog to prevent oligopolistic situations from arising. The IMF supports the government’s efforts to create a fairer taxation system that would lighten the burden both for individuals and enterprises and would attract investments. Still, it considers that tax reform is overdue. The IMF report also remarks that the government has been laxer in its spending since Greece entered the eurozone in January 2001. Spending must be cut in the medium term, it says. To this end, it recommends a stricter auditing of all public expenditures, something that newly appointed Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis has already begun. On economic growth, the IMF seems more pessimistic than Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. It says 2002 growth will be less than the 3.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product forecast in the budget. The reason is the international slowdown after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Forthcrs should have 800 agents online by May 2002 and able to cover the entire domestic shipping industry. It also aims to offer hotel linkups and packages.