In Brief

Government mulls extending aid to unemployment-hit areas The government plans to extend special economic assistance to older unemployed people in areas hard hit by the decline of formerly robust industrial sectors, Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis told reporters yesterday. He emphasized that the selection of areas and sectors would be made after a dialogue with other political parties, employers’ federations and unions. The announcement of pensions provided to unemployed people aged 50 and over and formerly employed in the textiles sector in the northern city of Naoussa caused an uproar, with the main opposition Socialists and the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) denouncing the government for endangering an already creaky pensions system and taking people of working age outside the jobs marketplace by not providing retraining. In the face of criticism, the government said it would provide income support from a Solidarity Fund, but not pensions. CPI stays put at 3.3 percent, but HICP price index rises The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was rising at an annual pace of 3.3 percent at the end of April, the same as in March, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced yesterday. Higher oil prices canceled out a change in the composition of the basket of goods used to calculate the CPI, the NSS head. NSS chief Manolis Kontopyrakis said he expected the inflation rate to stay at 3.3 percent in May unless oil prices keep rising. The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) used by the European Central Bank to calculate inflation across the 12 eurozone members rose 3.5 percent in April from 3.3 percent in March, above the 2.4 percent eurozone average. Analysts said generous wage deals and rising fuel costs would keep upward pressure on inflation in coming months. Bank IPO The government will sell up to 30 percent of Postal Savings Bank (TT) through an initial public offering by the end of May as part of its privatization agenda this year to pay down public debt, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. «Procedures for the listing of TT by the end of the month are proceeding smoothly,» said Alogoskoufis. «Up to 30 percent of Postal Savings will be sold.» The government is seeking proceeds of 1.65 billion euros ($2.1 billion) from state asset sales this year to reduce debt, highest in the eurozone as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). The Capital Market Commission, the securities regulator, announced yesterday it had approved TT’s prospectus for listing on the Athens bourse’s main market. The savings bank will be the 15th lender to list on the exchange. Last month TT posted net 2005 profit of 122.5 million euros according to IFRS accounting, down 7 percent from a year earlier. Its net interest income was up 0.25 percent to 242 million euros. TT has a network of 136 branches and staff of 1,224. Its chief executive has said the IPO will involve existing shares. (Reuters)