In Brief

A champion in one area and a laggard in another Something of a Greek economic paradox is illustrated by data released by the European Union’s statistics service (Eurostat) yesterday. The data show that the country achieved a 3.8 percent growth rate in its gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2004, year-on-year – one of the highest in the EU – but this was accompanied by a further rise in the trade deficit, which now represents 10 percent of GDP, the highest in the eurozone. The growth rate was 1.8 percent higher than the second quarter, the second highest after Estonia’s 1.9 percent. The eurozone has an average trade surplus of 2 percent of GDP. Greek exports did go up by 7.9 percent in the third quarter, year-on-year, to 8.7 billion euros, but the much larger imports also rose 5.9 percent to 11.9 billion euros. As a result, the trade deficit rose to 10 percent of GDP from 9.4 percent in the second quarter. Alogoskoufis asks industry to invest more Making the economy competitive and attractive to investors is the crucial target for 2005, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos agreed yesterday. The minister expressed optimism, promised to contain expenditure and urged industrialists to invest more, taking advantage of the prospects offered by the new tax and investment incentives laws. The latter, he said, is expected to be deemed compatible with EU law by the Commission. «The bet is on an extroverted growth that will create more jobs,» he said. Kyriakopoulos agreed that 2005, dedicated to competitiveness, will be a difficult year. Separately, Alogoskoufis discussed ways of bolstering the credibility of the stock market with stockbrokers’ representatives, who said they will submit proposals on Monday. OTE voluntary retirement Negotiations resumed yesterday between OTE Telecom’s CEO Panagis Vourloumis and the utility’s labor union on his proposed voluntary retirement program for up to 6,000 employees, estimated to cost 1 billion euros. No statements were made after the meeting, as both sides said negotiations are under way. As part of a restructuring plan, OTE will hire another 2,500 specialized staff. Another meeting was agreed, with the exact date to be confirmed. Balkan growth conference A one-day conference on «Investments and Development in the Balkans: The New Challenges for Greek Enterprises» will be held on Saturday by the Institute of International Financial Relations and the non-governmental organization «Interbalkan Cooperation» at the building of the Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA), 20 Academias St. The event will focus on how Greek business activity is perceived by the country’s neighbors and what they expect from this penetration. Mega Yachts Syros-based Neorion Shipyards has signed a contract for the building of a third luxury cruiser, Mega Yacht-type, for the company of Cypriot businessman Andreas Liveras, for 55 million euros. The cruiser will be 295-feet long, hosting 36 passengers and will be ready by spring 2007. Neorion President Nikolaos Tavoularis said «the new order gives us courage to see this difficult phase for the sector through.»