ECONOMY

Papantoniou: Greece can cope with global slowdown

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou predicted yesterday that the global economic slowdown will last longer than expected but that Greece’s economic growth will be hardly affected. In a radio interview, Papantoniou said that the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington would inevitably affect the American economy and have repercussions in Europe. However, there should have little effect on the growth of Greece’s gross domestic product. We have a growth rate that is one of the best, at 4.6 percent, Papantoniou said, referring to the figure predicted for this year. He also referred to the International Monetary Fund’s revised forecast for Greek GDP growth in 2002. The IMF raised its forecast to 4.3 percent, from 3.8 percent previously. Finance Ministry officials preparing the 2002 budget have been working on an assumption of 4.5-percent growth; after the attacks on Tuesday, however, an official said that figure may have to be revised slightly downward. Papantoniou also appeared confident about the course of the Athens Stock Exchange, despite the fact that it fell 5.38 percent yesterday to close at a year low 2,248.39 points, 64.6 percent off its all-time closing high of 6,355.04 points achieved on September 17, 1999. Papantoniou said that the ASE has now matured, something that can be seen in the range and type of recent fluctuations. He compared the ASE with the Frankfurt stock market, saying that Athens had better withstood the initial shock from the US explosions. Papantoniou was also asked about the case of the state portfolio management company DEKA. Papantoniou has been attacked recently by opposition New Democracy, accused of wasting taxpayers’ money to prop up the ASE index ahead of the 2000 national elections, which the ruling socialists narrowly won. What I see is New Democracy’s anxiety to keep this issue alive… It has estimated, mistakenly I believe, that the ASE’s fall harms the government. Speaking in Budapest yesterday Pedro Solbes, the EU commissioner for monetary affairs, said the region could see growth falling below 2 percent this year, down from 2.8 percent estimated in April, as a result of the attacks on the USA.