Jobless rate below 10 pct

The unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in 2005, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters yesterday. Alogoskoufis also reiterated that the approval by the Council of European Finance Ministers (Ecofin) of Greece’s updated predictions on major economic indicators was a vindication of the government’s policy. According to these predictions, the budget deficit, equal to 4.3 percent of Greece’s GDP in 2005, will drop to 2.6 percent in 2006, 2.3 percent in 2007 and 1.7 percent in 2008. Revenue growth is going especially well, the minister said, adding that there may be no need to use the additional 1.1 billion earmarked in the 2006 budget. He added that last year revenue growth was 6.5 percent, exceeding the 5 percent target. Unmentioned was the fact that the 5 percent target was the revised one, issued in September 2005, and that the original target exceeded 11 percent. Revenue growth early this year has been in double digits. Asked about yesterday’s general strike, Alogoskoufis repeated the government’s position in favor of collective wage talks, which bankers want to abolish.