ECONOMY

In Brief

Gov’t aims at jobs creation, growth and curbing fiscal deficits The government is aiming at moderate reforms in favor of economic growth that will reduce unemployment, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. An immediate priority of economic policy will be the bolstering of the dynamism of sectors such as construction, tourism, energy, telecommunications, transport and a large section of industry, he said. These sectors should be given added impetus through policies that will attract new investment, both domestic and foreign. Alogoskoufis said a new development law of investment incentives and taxation reform measures will be introduced in September. He said the government aims at keeping the fiscal deficit under 3 percent for 2004, with a view to creating a basis for healthy, honest and credible budgets as of 2005. Labor union chief sticks to his guns on 8 percent pay rise, 39-hour week Labor union umbrella group (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos said the 8 percent pay rise demand in the negotiations for a national pact with employers is both realistic and fair, as it mainly applies to the lowest daily wages, which today stand at 23 euros. Urging mass participation in tomorrow’s general strike, he said the demand for a 39-hour week was non-negotiable, and called for an incomes redistribution policy and the granting of permanent employment status to about 250,000 public sector, limited-term contract workers, in line with EU directives. He said this is a major issue of credibility for the government. SoGen for Egnatia? France’s Societe Generale (SoGen), which recently acquired a strategic stake in General Bank, is showing renewed interest in Egnatia Bank and is in discussions for the acquisition of a major stake, sources say. A first attempt had borne no fruit as Egnatia’s basic shareholders, the Theocharakis family, had rejected SoGen’s overtures. The French have declared they are aiming at turning General into a leading force among midsized financial institutions in SE Europe, through both autonomous growth and possible acquisitions. General and Egnatia have respective stock market capitalizations of 191 million and 270 million euros. Other banking sources dismissed rumors of major realignments involving the big players in the sector, citing Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis’s recent statements that the government is opposed to the further growth of the big groups, considering that it would undermine healthy competition. S&B S&B Industrial Minerals has obtained four licenses for exploration of bentonite deposits in NE Morocco. The company has such deposits in Greece, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Georgia. German visit A German trade delegation will be at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry at 10 a.m. tomorrow for contacts with Greek businessmen. For more information, tel 210.338.2246, fax 210.362.4643.