PM busy with meetings ahead of TIF

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled to meet with worker and industrialist groups this week as he puts the final touches to his annual economic speech for this weekend’s Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). Karamanlis is scheduled to meet with representatives of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the umbrella group for more than 2 million public and private sector workers, today. GSEE wants wage increases to help compensate workers for the rise in inflation to 10-year highs and the loss of purchasing power, particularly among low income groups. Government sources said Karamanlis is not expected to start promising handouts, due to the government’s difficulty in attaining the fiscal goals set for the current year. Revenues so far this year have fallen short of targets, increasing the likelihood of the budget overrunning its deficit goal, possibly even prompting the European Union to relaunch the excessive deficit procedure against Greece. Workers’ groups have announced they will embark on protest action this weekend in the northern Greek capital which hosts TIF – where the prime minister outlines the government’s economic policy every year. This year’s trade fair, however, has been marked by the withdrawal of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce due to a lack of interest shown by US companies. The chamber of commerce has participated in the trade fair for the last 48 years. As inflation rises and the country’s economy runs out of steam, Karamanlis will probably blame Greece’s economic woes on adverse international conditions. According to senior government sources, the Economy and Finance Ministry is preparing a series of new taxes to boost sagging budget revenues. Dividends and share capital gains will be taxed as the conservatives also plan to lower the tax free threshold for the self-employed from 10,500 to 6,000 euros. Karamanlis is also scheduled to meet with the country’s leading group of industrialists, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) later this week.