Charge on banks, firms possible

The success of the Finance Ministry’s tax-monitoring mechanisms in the short time that remains until the end of the year will determine whether an extraordinary levy will be imposed on profit-making companies and banks, a top government official said yesterday. He added that there are other proposals toward boosting state revenues that are being examined. A top Finance Ministry official, on the other hand, said that the government is still a long way from taking such a decision and that, if it is made, it will concern a very small number of enterprises. There is also the likelihood of an increase in the special consumption tax concerning fuel, alcohol and tobacco next year so as to garner an extra 10 billion euros for state coffers. According to the same official, the government intends to contain the deficit as much as possible this year, as it is showing signs of approaching 12 to 13 percent of gross domestic product. In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou noted that the country’s deficit will likely exceed 10 percent of GDP this year and it may require another three to four years before it can be reduced to below the European Union’s 3 percent of GDP limit. Toward this end, the government is to submit a three-year program of fiscal structural measures in order to bring down the deficit on a permanent basis. «It is clear that some additional borrowing will probably be necessary this year, in order to fulfill our obligations – paying pensions and outstanding expenditures, such as hospital bills,» Papaconstantinou stated, adding that the support package promised before the October 4 election will be mostly distributed next year. He also ruled out the possibility of the creation of any super-bank, in response to the scenario of a merger between Hellenic Postbank and ATEbank, and stressed that there will be no change to the tax status of the merchant marine.