- - Sunday, October 2, 2011

EUROPE

Greece says it won’t meet budget-deficit target

ATHENSGreece won’t meet 2011-12 deficit targets imposed by international lenders as part of the country’s bailout, the Finance Ministry said Sunday.

The country’s deficit this year is expected to reach 8.5 percent of gross domestic product, or $25.2 billion — higher than the targeted $23.1 billion, which would have been 7.8 percent of GDP, the ministry said.

Greece has been reliant since May 2010 on regular payouts of loans from a $150 billion bailout from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. It was granted a second package of about the same amount in July, but details of that deal remain to be worked out.

The Finance Ministry said the missed target was because of a deeper-than-expected recession, with the economy contracting by 5.5 percent instead of the 3.8 percent estimate made in May.

The announcement also reflected the government’s frustration with tax collection, which they blame on tax inspectors’ lax performance, and its fear that citizens, angry at seeing their wages shrink and, at the same time, having to pay an increasing amount of one-off taxes, would refuse to pay. 

TRADE

Report: Colombia still not safe for labor unions

BOGOTA, Colombia — A new study challenges claims from the administration of President Obama that Colombia is making important strides in bringing to justice killers of labor activists and thus deserves congressional approval of a long-stalled free-trade pact.

The Human Rights Watch study found “virtually no progress” in getting convictions for killings that have occurred in the past 4½ years.

It counted just six convictions obtained by a special prosecutions unit from 195 slayings between January 2007 and May 2011, with nearly nine in 10 of the unit’s cases from that period in preliminary stages, with no suspect formally identified. At least 38 trade unionists have been slain just since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010, says Colombia’s National Labor School.

Democrats in the U.S. Congress have long resisted bringing the Colombia trade pact to a vote, citing what they said is insufficient success in halting such killings. The White House says Colombia has made significant progress in addressing anti-unionist violence and is pushing for congressional approval as early as this week of the Colombia agreement.

UTILITIES

Feds have competition concerns in merger

RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal energy regulators say the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy to create the country’s largest electric company must include sweeping changes to protect competition in the Carolinas.

Duke Energy spokesman Tom Williams said Sunday the company is evaluating the order issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Friday.

Federal regulators conditionally approved Charlotte-based Duke Energy’s purchase of Raleigh-based Progress Energy, but told the two electric companies to propose solutions within 60 days that would protect competition in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The agency suggested that remedies could include selling off power plants, building new transmission lines or joining a regional transmission authority.

ECONOMY

U.S. incomes fall for first time in nearly 2 years

Americans earned less last month, the first decline in nearly two years. With less income, consumers could cut back on spending and weaken an already-fragile economy.

Consumers spent more in August, but their pace slowed from the previous month. Most of the increase went to pay higher prices for food and gas. When adjusted for inflation, spending was flat. Many people tapped their savings to cover the steeper costs. The savings rate fell last month to its lowest level since December 2009.

Consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month, after growing 0.7 percent in July, the Commerce Department said Friday. Incomes fell 0.1 percent, which was the first decline since October 2009.

From wire dispatches and staff reports