ECONOMY

In Brief

Household debt climbs to 30.5 pct of GDP in 2004 Household debt to banks soared in 2004, climbing 28.9 percent year-on-year and reaching 30.5 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product, according to Bank of Greece data. The rate increase of consumer loans in December 2004 was at 37.4 percent, the same as in November. New mortgage loans increased by 24.8 percent in December 2004, from 24.5 percent in November. The total rate of increase in credit to the private sector was at 15.8 percent compared to December 2003, the same yearly increase that was measured in November 2004. The total of unpaid debts of households and businesses to banks rose to 117.20 billion euros, compared with 101.18 billion euros at the end of 2003. The exception was loans to industry, with the credit rate falling by 1.2 percent in December, year on year. Shipowners find reason for confidence in banks Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) Chairman Nikos Efthymiou yesterday praised the role of banks in funding the modernization and fleet renewal programs of the industry, adding that shipping portfolios in banks are worth $25 billion today, while in the next two to three years shipowners will need another $4-5 billion for their ship orders. «Between shipping companies and banks there is a relationship summarized in this: mutual trust,» Efthymiou emphasized. Meanwhile, the Athens Derivatives Exchange (ADEX) is reportedly aiming to create a derivatives market for ship chartering prices, as in Oslo, in a bid to cater for Greek shipping. RES funding The Development Ministry decided to fund by 50 percent the projects connecting Renewable Energy Sources (RES) with the existing electricity network. Minister Dimitris Sioufas included these projects in the RES program, with a total budget of 40 million euros, 50 percent of which will come from the state. Proposals can be submitted by year’s end. Sioufas also approved funding of 60 enterprises with more than 4.6 million euros, through the «Disabled People’s Enterpreneurship Support» action plan of the «Competitiveness» program. The proposals refer to new businesses in the manufacturing, trade, services and tourism sectors. Successful applications receive 50 percent of their funding from the state. Euro-hotline for consumers The General Secretariat for Consumers has created the Greek branch of the «European Consumer Center,» to accept complaints and questions from citizens concerning their cross-border transactions in the European Union. The service is hosted at the Development Ministry, Kaningos Square (office number 114A), supported by the EU and can be contacted by phone on 210.389.3104 and 210.384.7253 and by fax on 210.384.7106 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday. Bulgarian taxes Bulgaria’s next government will have room to cut corporate taxes below the current level of 15 percent, Finance Minister Milen Velchev said yesterday, several months ahead of general elections. «There is still scope for the next government to cut taxes to between 15 and 10 percent,» Velchev told a group of foreign businessmen in Sofia. (Reuters)