NEWS

66th TIF open for business

THESSALONIKI – Amid gloomy reports on the global economic outlook, the bursting of the dot.com bubble, and fears of rising unemployment in the United States, the 66th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF) opened its doors to the public here over the weekend. In spite of the jazzy atmosphere that permeates fairs – colorful banners, bright lights and cultural events – Greece’s top trade fair, which attracts private exhibitors and state organizations from over 40 countries, appears to be feeling the jolts of the global economic shake-up. Indicative of the situation is a decline in the number of exhibitors who came to the port this year to present their products and services, the businesses represented do not exceed 1,210 – about a hundred less than last year. But organizers appeared optimistic on the successful outcome of the 66th TIF. The initial data show that the number of visitors has increased from last year, although it is somewhat early to make an accurate assessment, Dina Godinou, TIF administrator, told Kathimerini’s English Edition yesterday. Last year, the first time that the Hellenic Exhibitions HELEXPO SA organized the trade fair, as many as 1,300 exhibitors from over 40 countries participated in the TIF, while according to organizers as many 300,000 visitors passed through the gates, with 220,000 tickets sold. This year, organizers were hoping for an increase in the number of private and state exhibitors, with an initial estimate of 1,400, and an even greater increase in the number of visitors which they expect to reach the 500,000 mark. Asked to comment on the decline in the number of exhibitors, Godinou asserted that we are at the same levels as last year. She went on to stress that the initial targets set by HELEXPO for this year’s TIF are achievable, and we will achieve them. But, with signs of a global economic slump and a decline in the demand for goods and services clouding the trade fair, visitors could also turn up in lower numbers than initially expected by TIF organizers, following the lead of exhibitors. With the first three days having come to an end, visitors yesterday appeared at times to keep exhibitors at arm’s-length, sometimes avoiding entering the exhibition booths. Nevertheless, the trade fair remains one of the most important annual business events for the Balkan region, bringing together businesses from across the globe and enabling them to broker multimillion-dollar business deals and agreements. Visitors have a unique opportunity to see for themselves the latest that markets have to offer in areas as diverse as construction and industrial equipment, telecommunications, means of transportation, machinery, household equipment, and others. With exhibits covering an area of 43,000 square meters, visitors also have the rare opportunity to see exhibits from as many as 18 countries represented by 45 state organizations, including Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, South Africa and Turkey. A number of participant nations in recent years have increased their profile in the TIF by maintaining pavilions where they showcase products and services. One such high-profile pavilion is that of the United States, while others include Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russia. Another sector which in recent years has also boosted its presence at the trade fair is the government. State agencies and services that once were isolated from the populace within government buildings are now stepping out into the open with pavilions and booths at trade fairs such as the one in Thessaloniki. This year, the State has organized one of the most spacious presentations in recent years, with booths from the ministries of Development, Environment, Labor, and Agriculture, as well as with a string of state agencies and organizations, including the National Statistical Service. Macedonia, Thrace are becoming major players in domestic economy By Athina Kalaitzoglou Kathimerini Macedonia and Thrace are developing into major players in the domestic economy, according to data processed by the Bank of Greece’s Thessaloniki branch. The two regions contribute one quarter of the total GDP and account for a considerable percentage of agricultural and industrial production. The area is also establishing itself as one of the country’s major export bases, as about 50 percent of the country’s exports come from northern Greece. A considerable amount of Greek investment in the Balkans, the former Soviet bloc and Black Sea states goes through Macedonia and Thrace, whose privileged economic links with all of these countries could be developed further, particularly given the advantage provided by geographical proximity. The region’s growing importance, not only in the economic sector, has implications for planning and decision-making in both the public and private sectors, particularly given the indicators in the Bank of Greece data shown below. The indicators are useful not only for supporters of regional development, but because they show the potential of both Macedonia and Thrace in further developing Greece’s international economic relations. Inflation indicators Macedonia and Thrace are home to 25.30 percent of the country’s population, according to 1998 figures, with 2,661,115 inhabitants out of the country’s total of 10,516,366. The largest number live in Central Macedonia, which has 17.08 percent of the total population and the greatest population density per square kilometer (95.46 percent), compared with Eastern Macedonia and Thrace with 5.35 percent of the population and Western Macedonia with just 2.88 percent. Central Macedonia also has well above the country’s average per capita regional gross added value, according to 1996 figures. This translates into 2,703,130 drachmas per capita, compared to the national average of 2,624,035 drachmas. Eastern Macedonia and Thrace also do well in this area, with 2,197,673 drachmas per capita (83.8 percent) and Western Macedonia, with 2,382,013 drachmas (90.8 percent). According to 1998 figures, Western Macedonia performs better than the other two northern Greek regions with regard to average monthly wages, reaching 466,726 drachmas (108 percent of the national average of 430,452 drachmas), followed by Eastern Macedonia and Thrace with 437,312 drachmas (102 percent). Central Macedonia’s average is 401,908 drachmas (93 percent of the national average). The reason for these discrepancies lies in the fact that businesses further away from the center have to pay more to attract staff. Another interesting indicator has to do with employment. According to information for the second quarter of 2000, there were 4,437,400 economically active people in Greece, of which 3,946,300 were officially employed. The official jobless rate stood at 11.07 percent. In Macedonia and Thrace, where the work force comprises 25.08 percent of the national total, the unemployment rate is 10.65 percent. Central Macedonia le ads northern Greece, with 17.06 percent of the work force and where unemployment stands at 10.73 percent. Western Macedonia has only 2.35 percent of the country’s work force and an unemployment rate of 14.72 percent. The situation is more encouraging in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Although the region has just 5.67 percent of the country’s work force, employment stands at 8.61 percent, since most investments for which state subsidies are sought are channeled into Thrace, in the far northeast of the country. In all three regions, personal expenditure is almost as high as in the rest of the country, according to 1998-1999 figures. The national average is 559,046 drachmas, compared to 498,856 drachmas (89.2 percent of the national average) in Central Macedonia, 458,039 (81.9 percent) in Western Macedonia and 452,864 drachmas (81 percent) in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Of course, most of this amount covers expenses for food, with transport next for Central and Western Macedonia and housing, fuel, water and power bills in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Construction in the private sector in Eastern Macedonia-Thrace was down in 1999 (by 31.5 percent) and in 2000 as well, although by only 8.1 percent. The number of tourists in all three regions rose by 3.4 percent in 1999 and in the first three quarters of 2000 by 11.8 percent. The number of tourists from abroad rose by only 1.3 percent in 1999, but by 9.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2000, most of them heading for the Halkidiki peninsula, which saw a 7.6- percent increase in general tourist arrivals in 1999, and 19.9 percent of foreign arrivals. For 2000 the corresponding increases were 10.3 percent and 1.1 percent. Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Airport saw traffic increase by 15.2 percent in 2000, Kavala Airport by 24 percent, and Alexandroupolis’s traffic shot up by 36 percent. Kavala and Kozani airports had an increase in arrivals of 10 percent. The port of Kavala had the greatest increase in trade volume (22.6 percent) among the region’s ports in 2000, compared to Thessaloniki’s 20.6 percent. Power consumption in Macedonia and Thrace rose by 7.5 percent in 2000; the market for new cars also grew by 8.9 percent. Another benefit was that the number of bad checks went down by 29.1 percent last year (45 percent in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace), and unpaid bills of exchange by 12.9 percent. Daily events at the fair Numerous cultural events and services run parallel to the 66th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair throughout the week. The main novelty of this year’s TIF is the e-Expo: Contemporary and Advanced Services for the Citizen, showcased in Pavilion 10 with the presentation of products and services by institutions in the field of high-tech applications. Visitors have the opportunity to follow e-Banking procedures, as well as presentations on the latest trends in electronic forms of commerce and services. Among them are: – EUROPOLIS, organized by the Ministry of Finance; – The Information Society, organized by the Ministry of National Economy; -The Bureau of Citizen’s Quality of Life, organized by the Prime Minister’s Office; – The Bureau of Citizen’s Service, organized by the Ministry of Interior; – Services of tele-medicine, organized by the Ministry of Health; – The General Secretariat of Informatics Systems, organized by the Ministry of Finance; – AGROCERT, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture. A second exhibition running concurrently with the international trade fair is Euro: the Currency for Europe, organized by the TIF in cooperation with the Numismatic Museum of Athens. The exhibit is housed at the Tellogleio Foundation and it is sponsored by the ministries of National Economy, Culture, Macedonia-Thrace, as well as by the European Commission and the Bank of Greece. In addition, organizers have planned a series of events to celebrate the cultural life of the northern port. Among other sights, people from Thessaloniki and visitors to the 66th TIF will have a chance to see: – A concert featuring Greek singers Katerina Kouka and Antonis Zikas in front of the Palais des Sports stadium, on Friday; – Street theater is performed from Thursday to Saturday on the TIF grounds; -Traditional music and dances from Indonesia; -Expo-Fest, on the TIF grounds from Tuesday to Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (free entrance); – The 35th Rally TIF on Saturday on the TIF grounds; -A photography exhibition by the Greek branch of Doctors Without Borders, titled Ten Years Behind the Camera; – A Communications Radio exhibition of antique radio sets and of radio and telephone documents, in Pavilion 8. The 66th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair Dates: September 8 – 16 Venue: HELEXPO, Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center Opening hours: Daily 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 6 p.m. – 10 p.m./ Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Entrance fee for public: 1,000 drachmas Exhibits: Construction and industrial equipment, machinery, electrical/electronic appliances, telecommunication equipment, heating, air conditioning, means of transportation, household equipment, gift items, decorative goods, services, media, building material and appliances, Christmas articles Number of exhibitors: 1,210 Official participation: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, China, Egypt, France, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, USA (Greek-American Chamber of Commerce), Greek-Italian Trade Association Special participation: European Union and Skopje Fair