ECONOMY

In Brief

Supermarkets confident competition will shine Greek Supermarket Enterprises Association (SESME) Chairman Pantelis Panteliadis said yesterday competition in the sector is fierce and manufacturers cannot avoid increasing prices due to the rise in the prices of raw materials. Speaking on the sidelines of a hearing by the Competition Commission into allegations that SESME members engage in harmonized pricing practices, he said part of the blame for price increases, which have begun taking effect in the new year – and more are expected – must be attributed to high taxation. He said he is confident the Commission will absolve SESME of the charges, and that the rises will not be higher than the inflation rate. Relating to the proposed extension of shop hours, Panteliadis said SESME is happy with the present scheme, provided it is applied throughout the country, even if extended by one to two hours, and that Sunday remains a holiday. Separately, the Athens Labor Center (EKA) said it opposed the extension of shop hours as «it will have tremendous consequences on small enterprises» and lead to higher unemployment. Gov’t to present energy development master plan in the spring Within two months, the government will present its medium- to long-term energy plan, while the bill for the liberalization of the natural gas market is almost ready and will be tabled, fully incorporating the relevant EU directive, Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis told Parliament in response to a question by the opposition. He further announced that by the end of February, the regulations for the liberalization of the electricity market will also be ready and added that, within the year, the building of a new electricity-producing unit will begin. Salagoudis and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas put the blame squarely on the previous government for the country’s energy deficit, pointing to the warning by the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) since 2003 of the «very acute sufficiency problem» from 2005, and calling for measures. Sioufas announced the appointment as head of RAE of Harvard professor Michalis Karamanis, who had until yesterday the post of vice president and CEO at the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA). Last month, Karamanis was elected chairman of the investment committee at the International Energy Charter Organization. Jobless rate stable Unemployment remained stable in November, compared to the same month in 2003, according to the Manpower Organization (OAED). Registered unemployed totaled 528,312 people in November, down from 529,191 a year earlier. Interestingly, this refutes the belief of an increase in unemployment after the Olympics, meaning that either there is some hard-to-discern movement in the labor market or workers with experience from Olympic projects have been hired elsewhere or set up their own small businesses. At any rate, they have not claimed unemployment benefits. Deputy Labor Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos said yesterday that in 2005 «the nightmare of unemployment will be tackled and society will have the first tangible results.»