NEWS ARCHIVE - November 2013


November 28, 2013

Over-regulation costing Greece billions - WSJ

"Overregulation in Greece costs businesses and consumers billions of euros each year, a new report said Wednesday, urging the government to sweep away hundreds of rules that hobble the country's private sector and undermine competition.

The report, published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, identifies restrictions deemed unwarranted on everything from the shelf life of milk products and the sale of vitamins to cruise industry cabotage laws.

The scope of restrictions underscores how Greece's structural reforms still remain very much a work-in-progress after years of haphazard efforts to pry open the economy. Although Athens has made strides in balancing its public finances under its combined euro-zone and International Monetary Fund bailouts, many analysts say Greece is still struggling to overhaul its hidebound bureaucracy."


November 25, 2013

Relief in site for Greece - Deutsche Welle

"There are going to be no more measures for pensions or for wage cuts," he said, adding that his country has made considerable progress. "With our budget and structural reforms, we've reached our goal - and have even gone beyond it in some areas."

The prime minister was particularly proud that Greece's government this year will - if interest payments excluded - will take in more money than it pays out. It will, in other words, run a surplus. "I'd like to recall that this surplus wasn't set as a goal for this year, but for 2014," Samaras said.

New loans, therefore, are not necessary. "I believe we are going to soon have a recovery, and that will fully eliminate our budget deficit," he said.

"... There's a light at the end of the tunnel," Merkel also said. One has to also have "just a bit of trust" and not always assume the worst.


Targeted measures needed says Poul Thomsen of IMF - eKathimerini

"Greece will need to adopt new cost-cutting measures for the 2014-16 period, though they will need to be carefully targeted rather than across-the-board in order to protect more vulnerable social groups, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s mission for Greece, Poul Thomsen, said in an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition.

Though he praises Greece for the huge fiscal adjustment it has achieved so far, Thomsen adds that the government must crack down on waste. He also insists on reducing the size of the civil service as well as removing restrictions on mass dismissals in the private sector, arguing that this would attract more investment, boost business activity, generate new jobs and ultimately lead to growth."


National Bank of Greece seals $880 mln property deal

"National Bank of Greece, the country's largest lender, said on Monday it has agreed to sell a majority stake in its real estate arm Pangaia to private equity firm Invel Real Estate in a 653 million-euro ($882 million) deal.

The sale, which was revealed last week, is part of a restructuring by National Bank (NBG) aimed at boosting its capital base.

Greece's top four banks are being overhauled under plans agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund...

...Pangaia's real estate portfolio includes office buildings, branches operated by NBG and other property recently acquired from the country's privatisation agency."


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November 15, 2013

Hard winter lies ahead for Samaras - Economist

“IT IS the bad-news season,” says an adviser to Antonis Samaras’s struggling coalition government. He means the onset of winter, when cash-strapped Greeks start worrying about the price of heating fuel. A new property tax in next year’s budget, due to be presented to parliament on November 21st, is another headache. Farmers are being asked to pay tax on their landholdings for the first time. Squeezed by five years of austerity, one-third of property owners claim they will be unable to pay up, according to a survey by the Athens chamber of commerce.

Mr Samaras’s centre-right New Democracy party and its junior partner, the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in the early hours of November 11th. The motion was proposed by Alexis Tsipras, boss of Syriza, a hard-left opposition party, in an attempt to bring a fractious far-left faction of his party on board after he pledged in a speech during a trip to America that, if elected, he would not take Greece out of the euro."

Greece government list under Samaras / New Democracy


November 13, 2013

Greece still on target for balanced budget - CBS News

"Greece's Finance Ministry says the crisis-hit country remains on target to balance its budget this year, helped by a recent recovery in tax revenues.

Deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras said Wednesday that Greece was expected to post a budget surplus of about 345 million euros ($463 million) before interest payments this year - a key target set by bailout lenders.

Staikouras said the January-October balance stood at 1.1 billion euros ($1.48 billion) after traditionally weak tax revenues came in 250 million euros ($335.8 million) above target, at 35.59 billion euros ($47.8 billion) for the 10-month period."


November 8, 2013

Austerity strikes hit Greece - Business Recorder

"Greek workers held a general strike and Portuguese rail employees disrupted train traffic on Wednesday in renewed protests over austerity measures cutting painfully into wages. The stoppages underlined the public anger in peripheral EU countries over budget belt-tightening imposed to rein in public debt and stabilise the eurozone.

The general strike in Greece occurred as EU and IMF auditors worked in Athens to finalise the recession-hit country's next budget, looking to eliminate a fiscal shortfall of two billion euros ($2.7 billion), most likely through even more unpopular cuts.

The report from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank is required for Greece to obtain a vital one-billion-euro loan instalment.

But many Greeks say swingeing cuts have already pushed them to the brink.

Wednesday's strike, the latest this year organised by the country's main unions, shut down the civil service as well as train and ferry services nation-wide."


November 7, 2013

Is Greece the next Weimar Germany? - Financial Times

"Since the 2012 summer elections, Greece has rumbled with echoes of the Weimar Republic. There was no doubt that the composition of the Greek legislature was the worst in modern history. Parliament now contains the full spectrum of authoritarians: neo-Nazis, Stalinists and Maoists together with radical leftwingers, populist rightwingers and numerous defenders of paranoid conspiracy theories.

Nevertheless, for more than a year the situation looked superficially bearable. Greece has a strong coalition government trying to implement reforms, cut government spending and restore our economy. But to keener observers, failures outweigh the successes."

...the fun ended last Friday. In a mafia-like hit, two professional assassins murdered two Golden Dawn members in front of their party offices in northern Athens. Was this a terrorist attack, a revenge for the murder of the rapper? Or was it literally a mob hit, having nothing to do with politics?"


November 4, 2013

Love affair with euro continues - Wall Street Journal

"Across Europe, there is now a broad consensus that the decision to allow Greece to join the euro was a mistake. Yet ironically, the one place where this view is not widely shared is Greece itself.

Even after six years of recession, a 26% slump in output and unemployment of 27%, the Greek government considers membership of the single currency an article of faith, while 69% of the public supports the euro, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center.

...The current crisis may be Greece's last opportunity to turn itself into an effective modern state.

Greece's ability and willingness to make this transition will be put to the test again on Monday when its official lenders return to Athens for the much-delayed latest review of progress with its bailout program. The government is running out of time to reach a new deal with the so-called troika—comprising the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank—to cover a projected shortfall of between €500 million ($674 million) and €2 billion ($2.69 billion) in next year's budget.

...Athens believes it has a strong case to be cut some slack. For the first time since the start of the crisis, Greek economic forecasts are being revised upward..."


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