In Brief

Commission likely to take dim view of Greece’s deficit-cutting efforts The European Commission is expected to forecast the Greek 2005 budget deficit will top the 3 percent limit in its economic forecast report due today, financial daily Imerisia reported yesterday. Greece, which has broken the European Union’s 3 percent limit every year since 2000, has committed itself to squeezing a forecast 5.3 percent budget deficit this year to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2005, helped by spending cuts and in the absence of Olympic spending. Last week, EU finance ministers’ chair Gerrit Zalm said Greece, Germany, Italy and Portugal risked topping the EU limit in 2005 under current policies. The Commission will forecast a 5.5 percent deficit for 2004 and 3.6 percent for next year, with the deficit seen at 3 percent in 2006, the paper said. Forecasts for Greece’s public debt are also gloomier than the government’s estimate, with the Commission predicting debt at 111.9 percent of GDP in 2005 against the government’s forecast of 109.5 percent. But the Commission’s debt estimate of 112.2 percent this year is in line with the Greek forecast. Greek economic growth is expected to slow to 3.3 percent in the next two years from a forecast 3.8 percent this year, the Commission will say. The government is targeting 3.9 percent growth in 2005, one of the highest in the eurozone, against 3.7 percent this year. The Commission will forecast Greek inflation easing to 2.9 percent in 2005 from an estimated 3 percent this year, the paper added. Greece is targeting average inflation of 2.9 percent this year. (Reuters) Unions indicate willingness to back OTE job cut plan The government is willing to push through legislation to facilitate job cuts at telecom service provider OTE if both management and unions agree, OTE’s main trade union said yesterday. «Regarding voluntary job cuts, the (Finance) Ministry will implement the appropriate legal changes if both management and OME-OTE agree,» the union OME-OTE said in a statement. The state owns 37.7 percent of OTE. The announcement followed a meeting between union representatives and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis. Early this month, OTE and the unions agreed to discuss voluntary job cuts as part of the company’s plan to trim costs and improve efficiency. OTE is struggling to win union and government backing for a radical overhaul to slash costs and jobs next year. It has warned that the company’s survival would be at stake if it failed to cut costs and restructure. The finance minister also stressed that the government’s controlling stake in OTE would not fall below 34 percent under any circumstances, the union said. It added that the minister had agreed to launch an actuarial study into the workers’ pension fund, which is loss-making, according to media reports. (Reuters) Alpha Astika Akinita Alpha Bank’s real estate management subsidiary Alpha Astika Akinita said yesterday net profit in the first nine months of the year rose 3.0 percent to 4.64 million euros year-on-year. The company said its turnover during the period was grew 2.6 percent to 11.87 million euros. Parent Alpha Bank will report third-quarter financial results tomorrow. (Reuters)