In Brief

Fuel prices weigh heavily on 2005 Greek inflation rate Greek consumer inflation held stubbornly above the eurozone’s average in 2005, propelled higher by rising fuel prices, data showed yesterday. Inflation accelerated by an average annual rate of 3.5 percent last year from 2.9 percent in 2004, staying more than one percentage point above the eurozone’s inflation rate. The head of the country’s statistics service (NSS), Manolis Kontopyrakis, said fuel, on which Greeks spent more than most European households, was the major factor. «Excluding fuels from both the Greek and eurozone CPI, the (inflation) difference vs the eurozone would be 20 to 30 basis points,» he said. The government is projecting consumer inflation to slow this year, averaging 3.2 percent, a forecast economists say is heavily dependent on the course of oil prices. The government forecasts oil prices will average $61.4 per barrel this year. Greece’s EU-harmonized inflation picked up to 3.5 percent year on year in the same month. (Reuters) World Bank to lend more to Albania TIRANA (SeeNews) – The World Bank said yesterday it would lend Albania up to $196 million in the next four years under the new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). The goal of the new CAS for the period 2006-2009 – the fourth for Albania – is to support Albania’s National Strategy for Social and Economic Development and the European Union Stabilisation and Association process with the ultimate objective of EU integration and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals,» the bank’s country manager for Albania, Nadir Mohammed, said in a statement. The World Bank has lent Albania $130 million under its previous CAS for the period 2003-2005. Business pessimism Greek entrepreneurs are considerably less optimistic about economic developments in 2006 following the global pessimistic trend, a survey by Grant Thornton has found. The margin between optimists and pessimists has dwindled from +29 in 2004-5 to just +1, ranking Greeks among the least optimistic in the world. Agreement on track On January 27, Athens will host the signing of the agreement to create a modern railway network in Southeastern Europe of high technical and quality standards. The signing will be within the context of the region’s transport ministers’ convention, under the chairmanship of Greek Minister Michalis Liapis. More Citibanks Citibank is planning to expand its network in Greece, adding 10 new medium-sized branches in Athens to its existing 58-strong network, while its ATMs will number 180 by the year’s end from 155 at end-2005.

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