Public sector pay raises will not match inflation The government will offer below-inflation public sector pay rises of about 2.8 percent this year in a bid to bring its budget deficit below the EU cap. The average wage increase will not match inflation, projected at 3.2 percent this year, and will be well below union demands of about 7 percent, a senior Finance Ministry official said yesterday. «The average wage increase offered to civil servants this year will be around 2.8 percent, in the context of a general incomes policy aimed at cutting the deficit,» the official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters. Labor leaders have warned of protests and strikes. «Soon we will proceed with new strikes and demonstrations, a new round of protests against the government’s incomes and austerity policy,» said Spyros Papaspyrou, head of the public sector ADEDY union. «The decision will be announced in the coming days by the finance minister,» the official said. (Reuters) Greek private health spending more than double EU15 average The private health sector in Greece is growing by 12.5 percent annually – about four times the national growth rate according to Hellastat – and is attracting considerable investment. Public spending on health in the last decade has ranged between 5 and 5.5 percent of the GDP, and private spending 4.5 percent. Total private health expenditure covers 47 percent of the overall health spending, putting Greece on top of the old 15 EU members, while the EU15 average stands at just 22.8 percent. Copper merger Halcor and Fitco, both members of the Viohalco group, have decided to merge by absorption of the latter by the former. Separately, Hellenic Cables, also a Viohalco member, agreed to sell 3 million euros’ worth of cable to Spain for the Madrid metro. Investment subsidies The Finance Ministry has approved 577 applications for investment subsidies under its new incentives law. The investment plans have budgets totaling 909.5 million euros and correspond to subsidies of 380.4 million euros, creating 3,249 new jobs. Manufacturing accounts for 370 of the plans approved while 166 concern tourism, 23 are in the farm sector and 18 in services. Microsoft Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis are in Lisbon to attend the Microsoft-sponsored conference titled «International Competitiveness – Local Innovation.» Under an agreement with Microsoft, the Greek government will enjoy a minimum 20 percent discount in the purchase of software, while the company will set up innovation and training centers for Greek company executives, mostly in areas of high unemployment. HOL sold EFG Eurobank said yesterday that it sold its Hellas on Line unit, an Internet service provider, to Intracom Holdings for 18.95 million euros.