In Brief

No austerity measures to reduce budget deficit, says Economy Ministry The government has opted for a policy of mild fiscal adjustment without additional harsh measures, targeting a reduction in the deficit «created by the irresponsible handling of PASOK governments,» the Ministry of Economy and Finance said in a statement yesterday. The statement, in response to press reports, said «the effort to divert public attention [continues] by the known Cassandras of the opposition, responsible for the country's fiscal derailing,» just ahead of the debate on the 2005 budget. It concluded by saying that the European Commission, according to provisions of the Stability Pact, can make recommendations but cannot impose specific measures. Gov't suspends talks with Spaniards on DEPA Negotiations for the sale of a state-owned 35 percent stake in Greek gas company DEPA to Spain's Gas Natural SDG SA have been suspended, the Finance Ministry said yesterday. «The negotiations will continue after Parliament's approval of the regulatory framework which will govern the natural gas market's deregulation,» it said in a statement. Completion of the sale has been delayed for two years for several reasons, including a change in government in March. The state controls a 65 percent stake in DEPA with refiner Hellenic Petroleum. (AP) Businesspeople on trial In the first such case to reach court, 17 owners and managers of enterprises and stockbrokerages are standing trial accused of stock manipulation during the period from March to September 1999. They include Giorgos Batatoudis (Intersat), Spyros Tassoglou (Tassoglou-Delonghi) and Constantinos Stengos (Technical Olympic). In the trial, which began yesterday, they are accused of violating stock market regulations, misleading investors, spreading false information and direct complicity in these acts. Get on the Net Small businesses have another opportunity to make the most of the Internet through the second «Diktyotheite» program (i.e. Get on the Net), of the Hellenic Organization of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Handicraft (EOMMEX). The project is addressed to Greek enterprises with up to 10 employees, belongs to the Entrepreneurship Program «Information Society» and has a 50.2-million-euro budget. Companies participating can be funded for the purchase of equipment and services from alternative «baskets,» including hardware for linking to the Internet and for technical support, developing a commercial website, its virtual hosting, e-market page creation, training, etc. The funding limit is 40 percent of the investment or 1,250 euros. China mission The Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce (EVETH) is preparing a 10-day business mission to China in April 2005. Participants will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian, and will have prearranged meetings with Chinese counterparts. EVETH notes that China is a great market for all Greek products such as food, beverages, food-processing machinery, telecommunications equipment and services. To register, call 2310.370.132.