ECONOMY

In Brief

Christodoulakis wants frugal public utilities, overhaul of fiscal auditing Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday told listed public utility chiefs to rein in rate increases in 2004 and avoid favoritism in hirings during the pre-election period. He asked them to limit hikes to the minimum possible to avoid fueling inflation, keep borrowing at this year’s levels and not to make any social insurance concessions in the collective bargaining agreements that would lead to a rise in labor costs. Separately, the government unveiled a draft bill providing for an overhaul of the fiscal auditing system in public spending which focuses only on certain expenses. The new system means a departure from present formal controls toward an evaluation of management systems and internal audits, both in the ministry itself and the recipient organizations of public funds. The bill provides for internal auditing units and the gradual achievement of balanced budgets in all public organizations with budgets of more than 5 million euros, including public utilities, local government authorities and social insurance funds. State budgets will have to be balanced after 2004 and those of public enterprises within five years. The document, which has been two years in the making, provides for the setting up of five powerful fiscal control centers and a central ministry committee which will evaluate audits and monitor the professional conduct of auditors. Another committee will be responsible for checking the property declarations of Finance Ministry staff and tax officials. SETE says the future is in special forms of tourism Greece has the potential to attract 20.3 million tourists annually and boost its related currency earnings to $15 billion by 2010, on condition it begins now to develop infrastructure for special forms of tourism that can even out the industry’s strong seasonal fluctuations, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) said in a study. The list of such facilities – «ambitious but not unfeasible» – includes 46 golf courses, 15 autonomous conference and exhibition centers, 24 thalassotherapy centers and 42 marinas. SETE also estimates the country will need to boost its hotel capacity by 175,380 beds in establishments of the better categories. Achievement of the target will mean that Greece will increase its market share in Europe from 3.25 percent in 2000 to 3.86 percent by 2010, and in the world from 1.88 to 2.02 percent. Visitors’ spending would rise from $704 per head in 2000 to $738 by 2010, at constant prices. According to the study, Greece will have to aim for the average duration of visitors’ stay to remain at the present level of 10 days. Telestet Eurobank Cards, a member of the EFG Eurobank group, has signed a commercial agreement to promote connections with mobile operator Telestet through exclusive offers for its credit card holders at regular intervals. Prospective subscribers will receive service packages by courier after phoning Eurobank Cards. BA British Airways has announced reductions in its fares to and from a number of destinations worldwide, including Athens. A return flight from Athens to London will now cost 240 euros, and from Athens to New York 500 euros.