In Brief

Manufacturing, investment down, trade and services still going up The Greek manufacturing industry saw a slight downturn in 2003 as the production index fell by 0.4 percent and the level of use of productive capacity dropped from 77.1 in 2002 to 76.5 last year, according to data presented by ICAP. The research company announced that sales increased by 6.4 percent, reaching 39.8 billion euros, but investment in the sector and the business sentiment index both fell. Trade and services are still on their way up, though. National Statistics Service data show a 4.6 percent rise in retail sales in 2003, compared with 4.5 percent the year before, with trade profits up by 10.3 percent, to 38.7 billion euros. Sales in the service sector rose by 6.7 percent to 23.1 million euros last year, with telecommunications, casinos and fortune games, transport, business-to-business and advertising being the driving forces. Tourism, however, had a modest year with a mere 3.1 percent rise, with pretax profits down from 108 million euros to just 4 million euros. Alogoskoufis appears cool on heating fuel subsidies Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis indicated yesterday the government is not considering granting a heating fuel cost subsidy to low-income groups but did not rule out adopting other measures with a view to preventing such prices from rising further. «Supplementary measures for containing prices may be adopted but account must be taken of budget constraints,» he said after a meeting with the prime minister. Alogoskoufis noted that the government has already reached an understanding with suppliers to compress profit margins and reduced the heating fuel tax. «We are at the lowest (tax) level allowed by the EU… We have drawn up the budget on a realistic basis in relation to the deficits, we have budgeted for all expenses and made conservative estimates as regards revenues. We shall approach our targets,» he said. New technologies The government is aiming at and preparing for a substantial change in the relationship of the state with technology, aiming at enhancing the country’s economic, political and social potential, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told the Economist conference on electronic governance yesterday. The drive involves a broad plan with measurable targets, he added. Cyprus investment Cyprus has fully deregulated all foreign direct investment to the island effective from October 1, the Finance Ministry said yesterday. The directive would also apply to countries outside the European Union, the new EU member said. Authorities have also abolished the maximum or minimum permissible ceilings on investment in all sectors, unless legislation stated otherwise, the Finance Ministry said. The new regulations are to also phase out present distinctions between onshore and offshore companies in their company profile registration. Cyprus scrapped its low-tax offshore regime two years ago under pressure from Brussels, concerned that the island’s tax system would create an uneven playing field with other EU partners. (Reuters)