In Brief

Serbia asks IMF to allow pay hike BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Faced with possible social unrest, Serbia asked the International Monetary Fund yesterday to allow an increase in state salaries and pensions that were frozen as part of a bailout loan deal. The two-year 42.9 billion euro ($3.58 billion) IMF loan was agreed a year ago, after Serbia’s economy suffered a major blow because of the global meltdown. Serbia has drawn some 41.3 billion euros from the standby package. Yesterday, an IMF delegation opened talks with Serbian officials on the country’s compliance with the terms of the deal, and possible amendments to the original agreement. A statement by Serbia’s Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic suggested the IMF should consider the salary and pension hikes in view of Serbia’s improved economic performance. Serbian officials did not say how much they want the wages increased. The austerity measures have led to a modest increase in gross domestic product in 2010, compared to negative growth in 2008. Sharp rise in Hellenic Exchanges profit Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of the Athens stocks and derivatives markets, reported a 69 percent rise in first-quarter group net profit of 9.8 million euros, due to rising share volumes. While operating costs fell 7 percent to 5.3 million euros, the company said the volume of shares traded on the bourse in the first three months rose 33 percent to 2.3 billion stocks, rebounding from last year’s figure hurt by the global financial crisis. The company said its first-quarter numbers had not taken into account an extraordinary tax imposed by the government on profitable companies, as part of recently announced austerity measures. The tax is estimated to amount to 8 million euros for the year, the company said. Emergency budget Britain will hold an emergency budget on June 22, new Finance Minister George Osborne said yesterday, warning of an urgent need to tackle the deficit or face the prospect of a Greek-style debt crisis. The budget will be based on forecasts from a new independent body, he said, which will make an audit of everything from outstanding contracts to pension liabilities to assess the scale of the challenge facing the new government. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron has made tackling the deficit a priority and promised cuts worth 6 billion pounds (8.7 billion dollars, 7 billion euros) this year. Speaking to reporters in London, Osborne said the 163.4-billion-pound deficit was the largest ever seen in peacetime and blamed the previous Labour government for «13 years of fiscal irresponsibility.» He promised accelerated action to cut the debt, warning: «Greece is a reminder of what happens when governments lack the willingness to act decisively and quickly, and when problems are swept under the carpet.» (AFP) Costly energy Spain, which has the second-largest number of solar panels in the world, and Greece lead other European countries in costs for obtaining approval to build solar power plants, a lobby group said. Obtaining approval from authorities can cost as much as 39 percent of the planning expenses in Greece and Spain, according to a study by European solar lobby groups. That compares with 7 percent in Germany, the world’s largest market for photovoltaic panels. Spain also leads the region in delaying permits for the construction of wind parks, European Wind Energy Association said last month. It takes about 58 months in the southern European nation to win approval to build a wind farm, compared with about eight months in Finland. (Bloomberg) Power profits Greece’s biggest electricity producer Public Power Corporation (PPC) is expected to report tomorrow a 3.3 percent rise in first-quarter profit, as falling production costs more than compensate for a drop in demand. PPC was forecast to post a net profit of 226.8 million euros ($288 million), a Reuters poll found. PPC’s costs for natural gas and power imports dropped as energy prices tumbled year-on-year. Results were also helped by strong rainfall, which allowed PPC to generate more power from its hydro plants that are cheaper to operate. (Reuters)

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