ECONOMY

In Brief

Cyprus economy stuck in recession in Q4 2009 NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s economy remained stuck in recession in the fourth quarter of last year, flash estimates showed yesterday. A surge in government spending in the last quarter of 2009 helped reduce the rate of quarterly decline in gross domestic product to 0.3 percent, compared with a contraction of 0.8 percent in the third quarter, the statistics department said. Year-on-year, real GDP fell 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2.5 percent in the third, it said. Seasonally adjusted year-on-year figures for the fourth quarter were also down by 2.7 percent. It did not offer full-year figures. The Cyprus Finance Ministry has previously put the rate of economic decline for the whole year at 1 percent. «Winter quarters are always the weakest; however there are payments made in the fourth quarter by the government, so that is normally reflected in economic performance,» economist Stelios Platis told Reuters, referring to the quarterly comparison. Bulgaria puts off pension reform after union threat SOFIA (Reuters) – The Bulgarian government has put off indefinitely plans to increase the pension age after unions threatened nationwide protests. The new center-right government, elected last July, launched discussions in January on various options for a gradual increase in the retirement age from 2012, one of a number of plans for economic reform that are now hitting public resistance. Women now retire at 60 and men at 63; the plan envisaged both retiring at 65 by the end of the decade. Pensioners account for nearly a third of Bulgaria’s aging and shrinking 7.6 million population. The government argued that the pension reform would help increase the competitiveness of the European Union’s poorest member and shore up its pension system. But the idea caused widespread public anger and trade unions threatened massive protests, saying it was reckless to reform pensions during a recession. Labor Minister Totyu Mladenov said the government had now put the plan on hold in order to focus its energy on fighting unemployment and implementing healthcare reforms. Economic slowdown The Bulgarian economy shrank by 5.1 percent in 2009 as domestic demand and industrial output stayed weak and analysts say positive annual growth rates will likely not return until the second half of this year. The annual rate of contraction in the fourth quarter was 6.2 percent, preliminary data showed yesterday. The full-year decline is worse than the government’s forecast for a contraction of 4.9 percent in 2009 and compared with a growth of 6.0 percent in 2008. Analysts say the poorest European Union member country was among the last nations in Central and Eastern Europe to enter recession and was now lagging in its economic recovery, too. (Reuters) Power profits Romania’s state-owned power grid operator Transelectrica posted an 86 percent fall in its net profit yesterday, broadly in line with expectations after the value of the country’s currency plummeted. The company reported a net profit of 5.8 million lei ($1.95 million) for last year, against 41.9 million lei in 2008 and compared with an average forecast in a Reuters poll of 1.3 million lei. (Reuters)