Labor Minister Tassos Yiannitsis and members of the Executive Council of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the civil servants’ union (ADEDY) debated yesterday, in Thessaloniki, the measures required to improve the lot of lower-income groups. Both sides agreed on the need for welfare reform but disagreed on specifics. Armed with a report by the Labor Institute, a GSEE and ADEDY affiliate, unionists called for generous and consistent policies of aid to the most poor. Yiannitsis replied that the Socialist government, in power since 1993, has been generous in its social policies, devoting over 70 percent of the economy’s growth to wage rises, more than double the European Union average. Eurozone producer price index falls to 20-month low LONDON – Eurozone producer price inflation slowed to a 20-month low in July as falling energy costs led to the first monthly decline in prices this year. The figures, released yesterday by Eurostat, were seen by analysts as vindicating the European Central Bank’s decision to cut interest rates last week, even though consumer price inflation remained above its self-imposed two percent threshold. The prices paid by producers in the 12-nation region fell by a larger-than-expected 0.4 percent in July and were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago. That was the first and also the biggest monthly decline in producer prices since December 2000 and this drove the annual rate of increase to its lowest since November 1999. Energy prices led the way as they fell by 1.4 percent from the previous month, the biggest monthly drop so far this year. (Reuters) Projects approved. The National Economy Ministry announced yesterday it had approved 30 projects by Greek regions for funding from the European Union’s Cohesion Fund. Almost all projects concern sewage networks and treatment plants. The total cost of the projects is 502.6 million euros, of which about 377 million will be provided by the Cohesion Fund. Municipalities had initially submitted a total of 275 plans, which were initially whittled down to 106 by regional authorities, before being further reduced by the ministry. The abundance of proposals prompted Deputy Minister Christos Pachtas to declare that authorities had not fully understood the new, stricter project funding and monitoring criteria imposed by the European Union. The Cohesion Fund will disburse over 3 billion euros to Greece for environmental and transport projects in the period up to 2006. Turk businessmen visit. A delegation of about 100 Turkish businessmen will visit Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis from 12-15 September to meet with Greek counterparts interested in cooperation and joint ventures. The delegation, organized by the Izmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will be at Pavilion 5 of the Thessaloniki International Fair on September 13, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. IPO. The capital market commission yesterday approved the initial public offering of closed-end fund Nexus Investments for listing on the Athens bourse’s main market. Nexus Investments will offer the public existing shares. (Reuters) The shipping industry tapped the US junk bond market extensively between 1997 and 1999.