Greek Elections 2004
On March 7, Greece held national elections in which New Democracy party won a parliamentary majority, replacing the PASOK government. ND polled 45.37 percent of the vote to PASOK's 40.55, a result that makes 48-year-old Costas Karamanlis the next and youngest ever -- Greek Prime Minister. ND secures a significant majority of about 165 seats in the 300-member Greek Parliament, against 117 for PASOK.
New Government: Priorities
On the evening of the elections, Costas Karamanlis emphasized education, culture, and creating new jobs as among his upcoming government’s priorities, as the New Democracy party returned to power after 11 years. Karamanlis is set to become Greece’s youngest Prime Minister at the age of 48. In his first comments the Prime Minister-elect promised to live up to the voters’ trust. ''I am in politics to contribute; now that the citizens’ decision has been expressed; I offer my commitment to ... meet their (citizens’) trust, and to fulfill the agreement we have jointly signed,” he said.
Greece's State Audit Council gave the "green light" for the purchase of four new railcars by Hellenic Railways to service the Diakofto-Kalavryta mountainous rail line. Hellenic Railways is expected to sign the supply contract, worth 17.67 million euro, soon, with the first railcar expected to be delivered in 28 months after signing the contract and the fourth eight months later, in total within a period of 36 months.
Gateway to Japan
The Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced the launch of a community program, called Gateway to Japan, aimed to facilitate and support the participation of small- and medium-size enterprises to business delegations and exhibitions in Japan. The Chamber announced that the program has organized three business delegations and one exhibition to be held in Japan by the end of 2004.
Greece and Egypt Sign Protocol
The unions of tourist and travel agencies from Greece and Egypt (HATAA and ETAA respectively) signed a protocol of cooperation aimed to enhance bilateral cooperation in tourism. The protocol announces the creation of a Tourism Council between the two unions, envisaging the participation of other tourism agencies, with the purpose to design and implement joint actions and programs. The agenda of the seminar also included tourism development in the Mediterranean region, cooperation in dealing with several common problems facing the tourist sector and increasing scheduled flights between Greece and Egypt.
2004 Promotional Program for Tourism
The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) will be participating in the 2004 Promotional Program for Tourism which aims to promote the prefectures where Olympic cities are located. GNTO's participation amounts 1,112,500 euro and is broken down as follows: 305,000 euro for the Prefecture of Thessaloniki, 65,000 euro for the Prefecture of Achaia, 100,000 euro for the Prefecture of Magnesia, 395,000 euro for the Prefecture of Elia, and 247,500 euro for the Prefecture of Iraklion.
National Bank of Greece Governor Dies
National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas passed away on March 3 at the age of 74, after a bout with cancer. Karatzas was appointed Governor of the National Bank of Greece on February 5, 1996—a post he held to his death, while in March that same year he was elected President of the Union of Greek Banks.
Aghios Kosmas Facility Among the Best
The President of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) toured the new Olympic facility and marina at the coastal Aghios Kosmas site, the venue where the Olympic regatta will be held during the August Games.
ISAF President Paul Henderson told reporters afterwards that the new venue was among the best he’s seen, “I would say the best that we have seen in Olympics so far,” the US-born sailing official said.
Bank Profits Up
Greek banks are reporting a significant increase in their 2003 profits, reflecting improving organic profitability due to a dynamic growth in retail banking activities and higher portfolio gains because of a rebound in the Athens Stock Exchange last year. All Greek banks have announced higher dividend payments to their shareholders.
Improved Economic Sentiment Index
A report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) showed a significant improvement in the economic sentiment index in Greece, in the EU-15 and the Eurozone in January. The index was positively affected by improved expectations by both the business sector and consumers. Portugal (+0.7 percent), Greece, Holland and UK (+0.5 percent) and Germany (+0.4 percent) recorded the biggest monthly improvement.
Metro Use Up
More than half a million citizens were using the Attico Metro for their transportation around Athens. AMEL, the operating company of the Athens Metro said that passenger traffic was up 14.17 percent in 2003 from the previous year, with traffic recording a new record in November with a daily number of 576,557. Average daily traffic was 505,973 in 2003 from 446,524 in 2002.
Greece ranks 15th in an expanded EU-25 (with Cyprus in the 14th position) based on the country's per capita Gross Domestic Product (in purchasing power units), according to Eurostat figures for 2002. Luxembourg ranks first in the EU with a per capita GDP exceeding 200 percent, while Romania and Bulgaria (not included in the first phase of EU expansion this year) are expected to come nearer the 75 percent of the EU average in 2050. Based on 2001 figures, Greece's per capita GDP (in purchasing power units) reached 73.7 percent of the EU-15 average.
Greece's Updated Stability Program
The European Union's official bulletin presented the Council of Minister's opinion over Greece's updated stability program for the period 2003-06. The Ministers' opinion noted the need for an updated review of long-term viability of public finances "due to previous estimates of the danger of long-term fiscal imbalances." Greece's updated stability program envisages a 4.2 percent real GDP growth in 2004 (from an estimated 4.0 percent growth in 2003) and a 4.0 percent average growth rate in the period 2004-2006.
It also envisages a 1.7 percent rise in employment in 2004 and a 1.2 percent increase in the period 2005-2006. The program also forecasts a general government's deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP this year, down from an estimated 1.4 percent in 2003.
Trade Balance Improves
Greece's external trade balance showed a slight improvement in 2003, the Bank of Greece said. The central bank, in its report on the country's current account balance for 2003 said the deficit eased slightly compared with the previous year to reach 5.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product from 6.0 percent in 2002. The current account deficit rose by 0.9 percent to 8.647 billion euros, reflecting a 0.3 percent drop in the trade deficit, a 6.9 percent rise in the services' surplus, a widening deficit in the incomes balance (25%), and a 6.5 percent decline in the transfers' surplus over the year.
Greek-Iranian Chamber Established
The establishment of the Greek-Iranian Chamber of Commerce is the single most important tool in the development of bilateral economic relations, newly appointed Iranian Ambassador to Greece Mehdi said. He stressed the importance of the chamber in involving private sector initiatives of both states in ventures in Greece and Iran, which will in turn increase the current trade between the two countries. The current trade—minus petrol sales of Iran to Greece—stands at $60 million, while petrol sales amount to some $700 million per year. (Greece imports some 22,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Iran).
Labor Productivity Rises
Greek labor productivity rose by nearly 3.0 per cent annually between 1996 and 2002, an increase double the average in the European Union's member states. Presenting the findings of an EU report on economic and social cohesion, EU Commissioner Michel Barnier also said that Greece, aided by EU structural policies, had greatly increased its productive base and created the conditions for a steady alignment of income for the public with that in other countries of the bloc. The EU's structural funding to Greece led to a 9.0 per cent rise in investments; and represented around 2.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 1994-2001, Barnier said.
Tourism Information Centers
Greece's National Tourism Organization (GNTO) unveiled its first information office at the center of Athens, a move designed to offer improved information and promote the country's tourist product.
Greece had the highest GDP increase rate in the 15-nation European Union in the third quarter of 2003, according to data publicized by the EU statistical service Eurostat. GDP increased by 5 percent in Greece during the third quarter of 2003, compared to the corresponding period of 2002, and by 1.8 percent compared to the second quarter of 2003.