Now, fears of slower growth

Greece’s economic growth could slip below latest government forecasts – already revised downward after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA – as a result of international developments, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou warned yesterday. Two days after predicting a growth rate of 4.5 percent for 2002, Papantoniou said the figure for this year could fall below 4.5 percent. He attributed this slowdown to the aftermath of the attacks, adding that, had these not taken place, the economy could have grown at a rate of over 5 percent during the next few years. Yesterday, he said growth figures for 2002 could be around 4 percent. But he denied that the economy was entering a recession. If 4.5 percent is a sign of recession, then the Greek economy spent the past 35 years in a coma, he said. A draft budget presented last month forecast growth of between 4.6 and 4.3 percent for next year. Earlier predictions were in the area of 5 percent. Papantoniou said fiscal policy must remain tight to stave off inflationary growth, and to ensure that government pledges of higher social spending can be honored. In his statement, Stathopoulos referred to the protocol that was signed and according to which each EU member can ask for information, including the lifting of banking confidentiality, in the case of a judicial investigation into serious crimes, without this excluding terrorism (which is often funded by illegal activities). The ministers adopted a draft allowing the impounding of assets or other evidence necessary for the tracing of serious crimes and they worked on the proposal for the establishment of a Europe-wide arrest warrant to be used within the framework of the war on terrorism.

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