OECD voices deficit doubts

On the same day the prime minister met with the head of Greece’s industrialists to discuss the future of the economy, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) poured cold water on the government’s hopes of reducing its deficit within eurozone limits. In its annual report, the OECD said that Greece would only reduce its public deficit to 3.5 percent of GDP by the end of 2006 – still half a percentage point above the ceiling for eurozone members. The government has predicted it will reduce the deficit to 2.8 percent by next December, after being set a strict deadline by the European Commission. There was no sign of the news from OECD headquarters in Paris souring the mood during yesterday’s meeting between PM Costas Karamanlis and Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, chairman of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV). «I think the prospects are there for us to have good progress,» Kyriakopoulos said of the Greek economy. Karamanlis is due to address the annual SEV conference tomorrow, in a bid to boost the investor-friendly image of his government and convince businessmen that several economic measures such as social security reforms and private-public partnerships will materialize by September. However, another warning bell was sounded for the economy as Bank of Greece figures released yesterday showed that the current account balance deficit for the first quarter this year shot up by 76 percent compared to the same period last year.