ECONOMY

In Brief

Construction forecast to continue growing at least until 2006 The Construction Economy Institute (IOK) predicts in a study that Greece’s construction industry, one of the fastest growing in the country, will continue growing after the end of Olympic Games, despite serious and chronic structural problems. Total domestic construction activity (private and public) rose 12.05 percent to 13.65 billion euros last year and IOK projects that its share in the gross domestic product will continue rising in the next three years, reaching 10 percent by 2006 against 6.4 percent in 1997. IOK says the main factor driving construction will be European Union-subsidized projects and private activity, which is forecast to approach 9 billion euros, exceeding the total of public projects. Greece rejects charge of obstructing deregulation in coastal shipping In the new deregulated environment of Greek coastal shipping, the government has to maintain a supervisory role within the framework of regional development and the provision of equal opportunities to the residents of the islands – on which the country’s social cohesion depends, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Paschalidis said in a letter to the European Union’s Energy and Transport Directorate at the end of December. Paschalidis released the letter yesterday, in response to reports on Tuesday that the Commission had decided to take Greece to the European Court for indirectly obstructing the entry of foreign operators into Greek routes since the formal abolition of cabotage on November 1, 2002. He said he is still awaiting an official reply to the letter, in which he argued state subsidies to the sector did not break market rules. NBG Theodoros Karatzas, chairman of of the National Bank (NBG) – the country’s largest, expressed curiosity about main opposition New Democracy party’s announced plan to privatize the bank when in power. «NBG is already private,» he said, adding that this is proved by the wide dispersion of its shares in Athens and New York. The government holds an estimated 5 percent in NBG; the bank said it will release its 2003 results on February 12. Power plant Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos yesterday inaugurated construction of Hellenic Petroleum’s 390 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant in Thesssaloniki, expected for completion in July 2005 by Austrian firm VA Tech Hydro. The project has a budget of 250 million euros. Stockbrokers Greece’s 10 largest brokers, out of the industry’s 84, shared 61.8 percent of trading business on the Athens bourse in January, according to financial website euro2day. Total turnover last month, including crossing of blocks, reached 8.6 billion euros. Block trades amounted to 801 million euros. EFG Eurobank Securities leads the market with a 14.59 percent share, followed by National Securities and Alpha Finance. (Reuters) Inflation Greek wholesale price inflation accelerated to 2.6 percent year-on-year in November from 1.9 percent in October, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. Month-on-month, wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent, mainly due to a 2.7 percent rise in fresh produce prices. NSS said 12-month average wholesale inflation to November 2003 was running at a 2.0 percent rate year-on-year. (Reuters)