Shipping minister targets climate of confidence New Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said he plans to immediately activate the National Shipping Policy Council, as the industry is one of the main pillars of the economy. Speaking at the handing-over ceremony at the ministry, he said the new government aims at an effective policy and the creation of a climate of confidence in the industry. Basic guidelines of the policy will be strengthening the competitiveness of Greek-flagged vessels, attracting new ships to the national register, the evolution of Piraeus into an international shipping center, protection of the environment, creation of more jobs and bolstering security in view of the Olympic Games. Kefaloyiannis urged shipowners and seamen to set dates for meetings in order to exchange views on outstanding issues. Finally, he said he intended to fully tap the potential of new technologies in his ministry. Competitiveness of Greek economy deteriorates faster than EU partners’ The deterioration of the Greek economy’s competitiveness due to the appreciation of the euro last year was similar to other eurozone countries’ but losses continue to be greater since the early 1990s, notes Alpha Bank’s weekly economic bulletin. The value of the country’s new currency against third currencies last year was 21.5 percent higher than the drachma was in 1999, eroding competitiveness and causing loss of jobs. The bulletin says that the basic problem is that many traditional sectors are facing competition from developing economies, such as Balkan neighbors and east Asian countries, where product unit labor costs, expressed in the same currency, are much lower. Banking Ombudsman More than 80 percent of bank clients who sought redress in complaints from the Banking Ombudsman (TM) were vindicated in the 1998-2003 period. The number of complaints rose steeply from year to year, partly due to the fact that the TM is becoming better known. About 90 percent of complaints concerned credit cards. The TM examines those complaints for which clients have not received satisfactory replies from their bank branch within 10 days and, subsequently, from the bank’s central responsible department. Complaints to the TM have to be submitted within a month after the bank’s reply, by letter to Post Box 3391, 102 10 Athens, or by calling 210.3376700. Relevant information may also be obtained on the Internet (www.bank-omb.gr). Elinoil Fuel distribution company Elinoil’s shares make their trading debut on the Athens bourse today, at an opening price of 6.80 euros. The shares being floated represent 25.1 percent of the firm’s equity capital, while the main shareholders have undertaken not to sell any of their interest for six months as of tomorrow. Elinoil, which operates about 400 gas stations, raised a total of 16 million euros through an IPO and private placement with which it intends to finance an investment program.