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22 November, 2000
The main economic challenge for Greece is to exploit opportunities stemming from euro-zone membership in 2001 and a decline in political tension in the Balkans, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a preliminary report.
At the same time, the country needs radical structural changes in fiscal policy, which also needs to be tighter in 2001, and in the labor, goods and capital markets, the IMF said in the report released on Tuesday, after a visit of its team to Athens, the economy had made notable progress in recent years, taking the country into the euro zone on January 1, 2001; and the rate of GDP growth should rise to an average annual 4.0 percent or more in 200-2001, the IMF said.
The short-term outlook for the economy was the best in decades, mainly because the government had pursued a policy of stabilization.
The report welcomed the government's plan for a fundamental overhaul of the state pension system, although the problem of an ageing population would burden the health system.
A solution worthy of study was the introduction of non-state supplementary pensions, the report recommended.
State spending needed to be lowered, and Greek unemployment was among the highest in the 15-nation European Union, with past job-boosting measures failing to pay off. Vocational training should be encouraged, the IMF said.
Finally, the report also forecast that the current account deficit would widen, and that the state should reduce its presence in the banking sector.
Source: Athens News Agency