ECONOMY

In Brief

Efforts to stem Olympic price increases get under way soon The Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) will soon be carrying out a systematic drive of about 12,000 tax inspections on firms in Greece’s five Olympic cities, with a view to stemming a feared proliferation of violations, especially during the Games. It will also focus on checks for possible adulteration of alcoholic drinks. Separately, the Consumers Institute’s (INKA) Price Observatory and the European Consumer Center will set up special teams to monitor the prices of goods and services throughout the summer, particularly during the period of the Olympic Games in the second half of August, INKA said in a statement. Instances of profiteering will be reported to the media and the responsible authorities, as well as being posted on the Internet. INKA will set up 66 reception posts and information centers throughout Greece, two mobile units, a hot line (11721) in Athens and Thessaloniki, and two Internet sites (www.inka.gr and www.ecca.gr), where Greek and foreign tourists will be able to lodge complaints, report problems and obtain legal or other help. INKA’s authorized staff, who will carry special identification badges, will check up on consumers’ complaints. The plan includes an information campaign through advertising, articles in the media and the distribution of special pamphlets. There will also be direct communication with the Network of European Consumer Centers (ECC) in the 15 members of the European Union for the solution of cross-border consumer problems. Consumer organizations worldwide and international tour operators have already been notified of the campaign. Cyprus monetary chief warns of dangers of bloated deficit NICOSIA (Reuters) – Failure to implement an European Union-driven economic austerity program on Cyprus could lead to even more drastic methods to trim government spending, the governor of its central bank warned yesterday. The EU newcomer is struggling to contain a bloated deficit which risks derailing its stated plans to join the eurozone in 2007. But the perceived severity of some measures, ranging from a wage freeze to raising retirement ages, has kindled controversy, particularly from labor unions. «The plan does entail some consequences… but each of us must realize that if it is not done today, we will find it ahead of us, and in larger proportions,» Central Bank of Cyprus Governor Christodoulos Christodoulou told journalists. Authorities have set a cap on spending in the hope of cutting the budget deficit from a projected 5.2 percent of gross domestic product this year to 2.9 percent at the end of 2005. A country adopting the euro needs to have a deficit of below 3.0 percent and overall public debt less than 60 percent of GDP. A trimmer leu Romania’s Parliament yesterday approved a law which will lighten the burden on shop assistants and bookkeepers by creating a new «heavy» leu worth 10,000 times the present national currency. With the present «light» leu trading at around 40,700 to the euro (33,630 to the dollar), the reform has been long awaited. The heavy leu will circulate from July 2005 to the end of 2006 alongside its light counterpart, and light lei will then remain exchangeable for heavy ones at commercial banks until 2009. (Reuters)