Phuket Tourism: TAT in major drive to bring on more tourists

PHUKET: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is revising strategies to deal with the economic crisis in Europe and bad situations in the domestic market, such as floods and violence in the South, all of which threaten Thai tourism.

Phuket is featured in the plans despite record visitor arrivals during the first half of this year and what some see as formidable passenger traffic handling challenges at Phuket International Airport.

The new strategies aim to protect existing markets and to revitalize traffic from Europe, which is moribund in the grip of its economic woes. The TAT hopes to maintain key markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany and says it will focus on niches such as honeymooners.

The agency also plans to stimulate emerging markets such as Russia by addressing high-spending opportunity areas such as medical tourism. It will also focus on general tourism from the key countries of Eastern Europe.

The number of Russian visitors to Thailand is expected to exceed a million this year, surpassing the UK which has been the Kingdom’s biggest European tourist market for years.

Juthaporn Roengron-asa, deputy TAT governor for Europe and the Americas, said last week that more than 12 countries in Europe were in trouble because of economic downturns. Five of them – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain – are facing crises.

Among the tourism stimulation plans, the TAT will seek new sources of visitors by working closely with airlines to encourage travel into Thailand, and specifically Phuket, during the upcoming high season, she said.

Phuket’s high season begins next month.

Airlines from Poland and the Czech Republic already plan to inaugurate flights into Thailand, and THAI Airways says it will be adding direct flights to Phuket later this month.

Sansern Ngaorungsi, deputy TAT governor for Asia and South Pacific markets, said the TAT would also work to boost visitors from current key markets like China, South Korea and Japan.

During the first eight months of this year, 1.1 million Chinese visited Thailand, a 60% increase from the same period last year. The TAT expects to see 1.5 million tourists from China this year, with Air China increasing its flights to Bangkok and launching direct flights to Phuket this month.

Tourists from South Korea are likewise expected to increase as airlines there also plan to add direct flights into Phuket during the high season.

The Japan market has recovered quickly, with 720,000 visitors during the first eight months of this year, a 28% increase over the same period last year. Japanese tourists are now expected to number close to 1.1 million this year, up from 800,000 in 2010.

The TAT and Toyota Motor (Thailand) Co plan to organise caravan tours into flood-hit areas to help restore domestic tourism.

To revitalise tourism in the South, the TAT and tour operators in Ipoh, Malaysia, will launch a joint promotion “shortly” to bring more tourists to Phuket, Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang and Krabi.

But the TAT acknowledges that 17 countries have issued travel advisories on southern Thailand, but not Phuket, after a bomb blast on September 16 in Narathiwat killed four tourists, with more than 50 people injured.

The TAT also acknowledges that eight countries – Austria, South Korea, Portugal, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand – have warned their citizens to avoid visiting the three southernmost provinces (Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala).

And nine countries – Australia, Canada, France, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – have strongly advised their citizens not to go to those provinces.


‘Percy Jackson’ Author Rick Riordan Planning New Book

NEW YORK — After stops in the ancient worlds of Egypt and Greece, Rick Riordan’s ever-traveling mind has booked a flight North.

“The Son Of Neptune,” the second of his “Heroes of Olympus” series, comes out Tuesday and already has hit No. 1 on Amazon.com. In the spring, his next “Kane Chronicles” book will be released, continuing his series based on Egyptian mythology. And Riordan will soon get to work on a project he had planned years ago, before his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” stories made him a million-seller and the Greek gods cool for kids – a series influenced by old Norse tales.

“The Norse gods are so wild. They have this wild, barbaric energy you don’t associate with the Greeks,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press over the weekend, seated in a conference room at a Radisson Hotel overlooking Greeley Square in Manhattan, where a prerelease party for “Son of Neptune” would soon begin.

“There are so many fantastic stories and I want to bring Thor and Odin and the other gods into the modern world, just like I did with the Greeks and Percy Jackson,” Riordan said. “I’ll give the books an urban setting and have young people interacting with the Norse gods.”

A Norse series has long been rumored and the author has signed with Disney Publishing Worldwide, his current publisher, for at least three books. Riordan fans, known to remind and pester their parents for months about an upcoming release, will probably have to wait until 2015, the author said. So far, the Norse series is still in the outline phase, and he has “Heroes of Olympus” and “Kane Chronicle” books to write.

In the post-Harry Potter universe, Riordan is a favorite choice for young fantasy readers, and Percy, the boy with a god for a father and the mortal afflictions of dyslexia and ADHD, is a popular idol. “The Heroes of Olympus,” a spinoff of the Jackson series, has an announced first printing of 3 million. E-books are the trend for adults, but Riordan, like other children’s authors, believes his readers prefer traditional books.

“When I write, I’m still imagining a kid reading it on paper,” he told the AP. “I read e-books when I travel, but in general I still prefer holding an old-fashioned book in my hands. There’s a special, tactile experience.”

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 kids and parents turned out for the “Son of Neptune” festival, where the 47-year-old Riordan’s plain blazer and slacks looked absolutely human amid actors and fans alike dressed in togas, wreaths, crowns and even a charioteer’s helmet. A toga station was set up for those who arrived without costume, and attendees were also presented with pens, posters and a chance to sit in a “party chariot.”

A mid-afternoon rainstorm, like a divine tantrum, crashed late enough for performers dressed as Aphrodite, Athena and other gods and goddesses to read from the new book and for medals to be presented to fans quizzed on ancient Greece and Rome. Riordan himself came out to answer a few questions, the kind you don’t expect from your average middle-schooler. One noted that Percy’s face on the cover of “Son of Neptune” has a scar that shouldn’t be possible for a boy dipped in the River Styx.

A boy named Lamont asked Riordan which god he considered the strongest.

“World wars have been fought over this question,” Riordan responded.

Another fan wondered if Riordan had seen the film version of “The Lightning Thief,” his first Jackson novel.

No, he hasn’t, Riordan said, and he probably never will.

“The images from the book you make in your head are always going to be the best images,” he said.

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German Bonds Advance as Finance Ministers Gather at Euro Talks

October 03, 2011, 11:25 AM EDT

By Emma Charlton and Lucy Meakin

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) — German government bonds rose for a third day as investors sought the safest assets as euro-region finance ministers gather to consider boosting the region’s rescue fund amid the risk of a Greek default.

Greece’s two-year bonds fell as the government promised new spending cuts, backed by its international creditors, in an attempt to safeguard aid payments. German two-year note yields fell to the lowest in a week as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 1.3 percent before the finance ministers meet in Luxembourg today. Spanish and Italian 10-year securities reversed declines as the European Central Bank was said to buy the nations’ bonds.

“There’s a pretty solid safe-haven bid,” said John Davies, a fixed-income strategist at WestLB AG in London. “As every day goes by without a level of official progress, the market becomes more uncertain and more nervous. There’s room for bund yields to travel back down and test the lows again as long as this nervousness persists.”

German 10-year yields declined eight basis points to 1.81 percent at 3:57 p.m. in London. They reached a record 1.636 percent on Sept. 23. The 2.25 percent security due September 2021 rose 0.695 or 6.95 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,337) face amount, to 103.945. Two-year yields dropped six basis points to 0.49 percent.

Manufacturing Gauge

Finance ministers from the 17-nation euro-region will weigh the threat of a Greek default, grapple with how to shield banks from the fallout, consider a further boost to their rescue fund and tackle the question of “governance,” or who will be in charge of a better-managed euro area, at today’s meeting, which was due to start at 5 p.m. Luxembourg time.

Bonds in Germany and other so-called core euro-region countries rallied in the past three months as data added to speculation the European economy is slipping back into recession and as the region’s debt crisis intensified. Ten-year bund yields fell more than 1 percentage point in the third quarter.

A manufacturing gauge based on a survey of purchasing managers in the 17-nation euro region fell to 48.5 from 49 in August, London-based Markit Economics said today. That’s above an initial estimate for September of 48.4 published on Sept. 22. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

“There’s nothing really in Europe to be that positive about,” said Eric Wand, a fixed-income strategist at Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets in London. “Higher-grade fixed income, like bunds, will continue to be well bid. The markets would like to see the crisis response taken to the next stage but I am not sure if there’s enough cohesion in Europe to widen the safety net.”

Widening Spreads

The yield premium investors get from holding French 10-year government bonds over German securities of a similar maturity increased four basis points to 75 basis points today. The difference in yield between Belgian 10-year bonds and German bunds widened four basis points to 180 basis points.

Greek two-year notes fell after the government yesterday pledged to fire workers as part of an austerity package designed to help secure disbursement of an 8 billion-euro loan payout this month and a second rescue of 109 billion euros agreed to by EU leaders on July 21.

The steps would leave Greece’s 2012 budget deficit equivalent to 6.8 percent of gross domestic product, missing the 6.5 percent goal previously set with the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, known as the troika. The group’s inspectors agreed to the proposed 2012 budget.

Greek Deficit

“The news out of Greece over the weekend wasn’t great, with it admitting that it won’t meet the deficit targets,” West LB’s Davies said. “The market needs to see the next aid tranche paid.”

The Greek two-year note yields were 13 basis points higher at 62.30 percent, while the 10-year yield lost seven basis points to 22.62 percent.

Bailout packages for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and bond purchases by the European Central Bank have failed to stabilize markets and stop the debt crisis threatening to engulf Italy and Spain. The ECB began buying Spanish and Italian government securities on Aug. 8 to curb a surge in yields, according to traders who witnessed the deals.

The Frankfurt-based central bank bought debt from both nations today, according to four people with knowledge of the transactions, who asked not to be identified because the deals are confidential. A spokesman for the ECB declined to comment.

Italian Bonds

The ECB said today it settled 3.80 billion euros of bond purchases in the week through Sept. 30, down from 3.95 billion euros in the previous week. That’s the least since it resumed its government bond-buying program on Aug. 4.

Italian 10-year bonds rose, pushing the yield down two basis points to 5.52 percent. Earlier, the rate climbed 10 basis points to 5.63 percent. Spain’s 10-year bond yields fell two basis points to 5.11 percent after rising as much as five basis points earlier to 5.19 percent.

German government bonds returned 7.9 percent in the third quarter, leaving them with a 7.7 percent return in 2011, according to indexes compiled by the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies and Bloomberg. Treasuries gained 6.5 percent last quarter while Greek bonds tumbled 25 percent, pushing their loss this year to 36 percent.

–Editors: Mark McCord, Matthew Brown

To contact the reporters on this story: Emma Charlton in London at [email protected]; Lucy Meakin in London at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at [email protected]


5 Ways to Travel the World Without Leaving the Country

Looking for the perfect vacation getaway, but the economy has got you down?

Hotel and travel prices have increased significantly as the U.S. dollar continues to weaken. But that shouldn’t stop you from planning your dream trip anywhere in the world.

Thanks to America’s rich immigrant culture, those looking for a foreign adventure don’t have to look further than their own backyards.

You can spend on $1,300 on round-trip ticket from New York to Sao Paulo, Brazil, or you can get a taste of the country on Little Brazil Street right next to Times Square in New York City.

Or perhaps you are simply looking to skip the stress of flying and going through airport security. Some of these locations could be just a drive away — are worth the trip.

Either way, be sure to check out these five great “countries” to visit all in the U.S.

Little Brazil Street, New York, N.Y.

Right off of Times Square in Manhattan lies a home-away-from-home for many Brazilians on the East Coast. Dubbed “Little Brazil Street,” West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues really comes alive during the Soccer World Cup, the Brazilian equivalent of the Superbowl.

The next tournament isn’t until July, 2014. But there are plenty of other events worth checking out.

In September is the annual Brazilian Day festival — the largest Brazilian event outside of Brazil — which draws thousands of party goers to its carnival-like atmosphere. But on any given day, the food it enough to draw you there.

For the real Brazilian dining experience, try Via Brasil, where you can sample the country’s national dish, Feijoada Completa, a pork, bean and sausage stew. Also try a typical Brazilian cocktail, called a Caipirinha, made of fresh limes, sugar and the Brazilian liqueur cachaca. For churrasco style meat, cooked the traditional way on skewers over an open fire, try Churrascaria Tribeca.

And don’t forget to bring an English-Portuguese dictionary, along with your appetite.

For more places to explore in NYC check out FoxNews.com’s vacation guide

Holland, Mich. (Little Holland)

Get your wooden clogs out of the closet while visiting this Michigan town with a rich Dutch heritage. Don’t own a pair? No problem. Make sure you visit the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe Delft Factory where you can watch the wooden shoes being carved. Brush up on your Dutch history and visit the Historic Dutch Trade Fair at Windmill Island Gardens where kids will enjoy watching grain turn into flour in the typical Dutch fashion, via windmill. Kids will also love learning traditional Dutch dances and feeding farm animals at Nelis’ Dutch Village.

For a slightly more adult activity, take a tour at the New Holland Brewing Company and Distillery for just $10 and $5 dollars respectively. And try to visit Holland during the Tulip Festival, when the town is in full bloom with well over 6 million tulips. The upcoming festival will be held from May 5-12, 2012.

Artesia, Calif. (Little India)

It’s hard to believe that just 20 miles from Los Angeles lies America’s own mini-Bombay. Visit the Swaminarayan Hindu temple for a dose of Indian culture, where visitors are always welcome and it is open daily. Cool off at the Saffron Spot with ice cream flavors with an Indian spin, such as banana cardamom, lychee and Rajbhog (Saffron, Pistachios, Cashews, Almonds and Cardamom). And who could leave India (well in this case, Little India) without buying their own sari? Check out Mirage or the India Sari Palace to pick out your own Indian garb.

Tarpon Springs, Fla. (Greektown)

Dying for some authentic Moussaka? Visit Tarpon Springs, Florida, home to the largest Greek-American population in the U.S. The first wave of Greek immigrants flocked to the town in 1880 and showed the growing natural sponge harvesting industry how it was done in Greece. Now known for its world-class natural sponges (they make great loofahs), tourists watching professional divers harvest sponge at the St. Nicholas Boat Line tours. But the best way to get a real taste of Greece is to wander the streets of Dodecanese Boulevard and try out the many different restaurants serving traditional Greek food like souvlaki and gyros. Food lovers should also check out the farmers markets for the best Kalamata olives. Before you go, make sure to brush up on your Greek, as many of the older residents regularly converse in their native tongue.

Little Italy, San Diego, Calif.

When you think of little Italy, you typically think of New York or Boston. But Little Italy in San Diego, Calif. is as good as it gets. Check out the neighborhood’s many authentic Italian restaurants such as Filippi’s Pizza Filippi’s Pizza Grotto and Little Italy Spaghetteria.

Be sure to attend the Little Italy FESTA! (October 9, 2011) for live cooking demonstration, concerts, Gesso Italiano chalk art and the Italian Motor Sports Exhibit.

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the festival. Every Saturday the town is home to the Little Italy Mercato with over 100 booths selling Italian goodies.

Little Italy will have you never wanting to say, “Arrivederci!”

For San Diego travel tips, visit FoxNews.com’s vacation guide


Setting the agenda for special interest tourism: Past, present and future


The development of mass tourism has posed threats and created problems that have affected destinations and local communities in virtually every corner of the world. To overcome the problems of mass tourism, many governments, businesses, communities, and tourism organisations have turned to alternative types of tourism development. One such alternative is ‘special interest tourism’. While this has become a centre of attention for the tourism industry, in academic and professional literature, there is still much that is not known or is not widely known.

Bearing these in mind, ICOT 2012 (Archanes, Crete Greece 23-26 May 2012) aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on the issues posed by special interest tourism by covering state-of-the-art theoretical, practical and institutional work on special interest tourism. Through the dissemination of this work the conference seeks to inform future policy on the management of special interest tourism projects by stimulating discussion and the exchange of ideas between tourism professionals, academics, researchers, policy-makers, consultants, practitioners, government officials and postgraduate students from tourism-related fields.

ICOT 2012 will also give participants an opportunity to combine an effective conference experience with a holiday in Archanes, Crete, one of the most famous rural destinations in Crete.

The conference will focus on a broad range of topics related to tourism, including (but not limited to):
– Theoretical Perspectives on Sustainability, Special Interest and Alternative forms of Tourism
– Tourism Development, Policy and Planning
– Case studies and applied research on various types and forms of tourism, such as agro-tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, health tourism, sport tourism, space tourism etc.
– Facets of Religious Tourism
– Globalisation Effects
– Economic/Social/Environmental/Cultural Impact of Tourism
– Community Impact and Response
– Resiliency Planning
– Tourism Marketing and Management
– Information Technology in Tourism
– Negotiation in Tourism
– Tourism Mobilities
– Industry’s Role in Managing Growth
– Transportation and Tourism
– Authenticity and Commodification
– Tourism Education
– The Future of Tourism
– Climate Change and Natural Disasters
– The effects of Crime, Terrorism, Safety and Security.


Marsh on Monday: German OK only small step in averting Greek crisis

By David Marsh, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Europe collectively breathed a sigh of relief as the German parliament voted by a large margin for an expansion of the powers and scope of the €440 billion euro rescue fund intended to shore up the most vulnerable members of economic and monetary union (EMU). The next staging post of a roller-coaster ride of hope and fear.

But the Berlin decision does nothing more than bring the Germans up to the point everyone thought they’d already reached on July 21 when European leaders agreed to broaden the scope and powers of the European Financial Stabilization Facility. So the politicians are still about two months behind the markets.

It’s as if we have two sets of alternative cinematographic technologies competing with each other. While the politicians are still dealing in genteel, stumbling back-and-white, the financial markets are lurching onwards in glorious, gory technicolor. Unfortunately, the screens are likely to turn red — the color of blood.


Click to Play

Will the ECB cut interest rates?

Investors are awaiting monetary policy decisions from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England this coming week.

While politicians in the last two months have indulged in that essential and immortal characteristic of Europe — long holidays — the markets have moved dramatically further toward pricing in a Greek default. And, predictably, Greece has shunted several steps backwards. Deficit targets are ever less likely to be achieved — the result of a self-fueling downward spiral.

Many contentious issues regarding the euro rescue mechanism have not yet been resolved. One of the most difficult is “leveraging” the EFSF to increase many times over the €440 billion that so far is the limit of its potential. Such a scheme is controversial — especially in Germany — but is probably inevitable, given the spreading of the euro malaise to Italy and Spain.

Overshadowing everything is Germany’s opposition to European Central Bank action over the past 16 months to purchase the bonds of weaker euro members on the secondary market, starting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland in May 2010 and extended in August 2011 to Italy and Spain.

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140756

Assuming that parliamentary ratification is completed among other EMU member states, the rescue fund will now be given new powers to extend borrowing on financial markets, buy bonds and recapitalize weak banks.

Assuming parliamentary procedures go through in the other relatively skeptical countries that have still to vote, the Netherlands and Slovakia, ECB bond purchases should end at the latest in mid-October as the onus for action on fiscal support is transferred to the EFSF.

A growing body of opinion on the ECB’s 23-member decision-making governing council has been arguing that the central bank’s stature has been underlined by the bond purchasing moves, totalling €157 billion since May 2010.

Opposition has been led by German representatives on the council, along with more nuanced resistance from the Dutch and the Luxembourgers — all countries with large creditor positions.

The moves to broaden the EFSF’s size and scope come in the nick of time. The first tests of its new powers will probably come in the next few weeks. Speculation about a possible Greek debt default is intensifying, as the troika from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB reopen talks in Athens on Greece’s steps to accomplish budget targets for its next €8 billion portion from the country’s existing €110 billion rescue program.

If Greece defaults, euro governments know they must have the EFSF fully operational to cope with the danger of contagion. However, the EFSF headquarters in Luxembourg is still relatively under-staffed and has nothing like the full technical capacity to carry out the additional onerous duties that are being suddenly thrust upon it. There is awareness, too, that, even with a borrowing capacity up to the full €440 billion, the EFSF will be neither large nor flexible enough to counter a new bout of market speculation that could hit Italy or Spain.

This is why, in addition to intervening in the secondary markets to buy the bonds of hard-hit countries, the EFSF is expected to borrow from financial markets (against the collateral of the euro members’ bonds in its portfolio) to increase further its ammunition.

The ECB will not lend directly to the EFSF, as some analysts have suggested, because this would fall foul of German objections about monetizing problem countries’ debts. However the ECB does stand ready to provide liquidity to banks that lend to the EFSF — an indirect form of support.

Such leveraging will be subject to clear market discipline. Sovereign funds and other pools of capital in Asia — which have made clear their appetite for EFSF bonds in recent months — will only put up more money if they are convinced that the EFSF’s actions in supporting euro members in difficulties are economically sustainable. Otherwise, they would demand punitively high interest rates for their lending to the EFSF, seriously countering the underlying logic.

In addition, action by the EFSF in buying bonds from, and otherwise supporting, trouble-torn euro-member states will have to be decided on the basis of unanimity by EMU states — meaning that hard-line creditor countries such as Germany and the Netherlands will have much greater control over its lending behavior than they currently have over the ECB, where decisions are based on the principle of majority voting rather than unanimity. So there is a long road still to travel — and plenty of opportunity for potentially disastrous alarms and setbacks.

David Marsh is co-chairman of think-tank OMFIF and author of The Euro – The Battle for the New Global Currency (Yale University Press).


German OK only small step in averting Greek crisis

By David Marsh, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Europe collectively breathed a sigh of relief as the German parliament voted by a large margin for an expansion of the powers and scope of the €440 billion euro rescue fund intended to shore up the most vulnerable members of economic and monetary union (EMU). The next staging post of a roller-coaster ride of hope and fear.

But the Berlin decision does nothing more than bring the Germans up to the point everyone thought they’d already reached on July 21 when European leaders agreed to broaden the scope and powers of the European Financial Stabilization Facility. So the politicians are still about two months behind the markets.

It’s as if we have two sets of alternative cinematographic technologies competing with each other. While the politicians are still dealing in genteel, stumbling back-and-white, the financial markets are lurching onwards in glorious, gory technicolor. Unfortunately, the screens are likely to turn red — the color of blood.


Click to Play

Will the ECB cut interest rates?

Investors are awaiting monetary policy decisions from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England this coming week.

While politicians in the last two months have indulged in that essential and immortal characteristic of Europe — long holidays — the markets have moved dramatically further toward pricing in a Greek default. And, predictably, Greece has shunted several steps backwards. Deficit targets are ever less likely to be achieved — the result of a self-fueling downward spiral.

Many contentious issues regarding the euro rescue mechanism have not yet been resolved. One of the most difficult is “leveraging” the EFSF to increase many times over the €440 billion that so far is the limit of its potential. Such a scheme is controversial — especially in Germany — but is probably inevitable, given the spreading of the euro malaise to Italy and Spain.

Overshadowing everything is Germany’s opposition to European Central Bank action over the past 16 months to purchase the bonds of weaker euro members on the secondary market, starting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland in May 2010 and extended in August 2011 to Italy and Spain.

Global Dow



MarketWatch Topics: Middle East

Asia Markets

Europe Markets

Lat. Am.

Canadian Markets

Israel Stocks

London

U.S.:

Market Snapshot

|

After Hours

Tools


Latin American and Canadian indexes



European indexes


Asian indexes

More on the Markets


Global Economic Calendar

Bond Report

Oil News


Earnings Watch

Currencies

|

U.S. Economic Calendar

/conga/story/misc/international.html
140756

Assuming that parliamentary ratification is completed among other EMU member states, the rescue fund will now be given new powers to extend borrowing on financial markets, buy bonds and recapitalize weak banks.

Assuming parliamentary procedures go through in the other relatively skeptical countries that have still to vote, the Netherlands and Slovakia, ECB bond purchases should end at the latest in mid-October as the onus for action on fiscal support is transferred to the EFSF.

A growing body of opinion on the ECB’s 23-member decision-making governing council has been arguing that the central bank’s stature has been underlined by the bond purchasing moves, totalling €157 billion since May 2010.

Opposition has been led by German representatives on the council, along with more nuanced resistance from the Dutch and the Luxembourgers — all countries with large creditor positions.

The moves to broaden the EFSF’s size and scope come in the nick of time. The first tests of its new powers will probably come in the next few weeks. Speculation about a possible Greek debt default is intensifying, as the troika from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB reopen talks in Athens on Greece’s steps to accomplish budget targets for its next €8 billion portion from the country’s existing €110 billion rescue program.

If Greece defaults, euro governments know they must have the EFSF fully operational to cope with the danger of contagion. However, the EFSF headquarters in Luxembourg is still relatively under-staffed and has nothing like the full technical capacity to carry out the additional onerous duties that are being suddenly thrust upon it. There is awareness, too, that, even with a borrowing capacity up to the full €440 billion, the EFSF will be neither large nor flexible enough to counter a new bout of market speculation that could hit Italy or Spain.

This is why, in addition to intervening in the secondary markets to buy the bonds of hard-hit countries, the EFSF is expected to borrow from financial markets (against the collateral of the euro members’ bonds in its portfolio) to increase further its ammunition.

The ECB will not lend directly to the EFSF, as some analysts have suggested, because this would fall foul of German objections about monetizing problem countries’ debts. However the ECB does stand ready to provide liquidity to banks that lend to the EFSF — an indirect form of support.

Such leveraging will be subject to clear market discipline. Sovereign funds and other pools of capital in Asia — which have made clear their appetite for EFSF bonds in recent months — will only put up more money if they are convinced that the EFSF’s actions in supporting euro members in difficulties are economically sustainable. Otherwise, they would demand punitively high interest rates for their lending to the EFSF, seriously countering the underlying logic.

In addition, action by the EFSF in buying bonds from, and otherwise supporting, trouble-torn euro-member states will have to be decided on the basis of unanimity by EMU states — meaning that hard-line creditor countries such as Germany and the Netherlands will have much greater control over its lending behavior than they currently have over the ECB, where decisions are based on the principle of majority voting rather than unanimity. So there is a long road still to travel — and plenty of opportunity for potentially disastrous alarms and setbacks.

David Marsh is co-chairman of think-tank OMFIF and author of The Euro – The Battle for the New Global Currency (Yale University Press).


‘Percy Jackson’ author planning book on Norse gods

NEW YORK — After stops in the ancient worlds of Egypt and Greece, Rick Riordan’s ever-traveling mind has booked a flight North.

“The Son Of Neptune,” the second of his “Heroes of Olympus” series, comes out Tuesday and already has hit No. 1 on Amazon.com. In the spring, his next “Kane Chronicles” book will be released, continuing his series based on Egyptian mythology. And Riordan will soon get to work on a project he had planned years ago, before his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” stories made him a million-seller and the Greek gods cool for kids — a series influenced by old Norse tales.

“The Norse gods are so wild. They have this wild, barbaric energy you don’t associate with the Greeks,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press over the weekend, seated in a conference room at a Radisson Hotel overlooking Greeley Square in Manhattan, where a prerelease party for “Son of Neptune” would soon begin.

“There are so many fantastic stories and I want to bring Thor and Odin and the other gods into the modern world, just like I did with the Greeks and Percy Jackson,” Riordan said. “I’ll give the books an urban setting and have young people interacting with the Norse gods.”

A Norse series has long been rumored and the author has signed with Disney Publishing Worldwide, his current publisher, for at least three books. Riordan fans, known to remind and pester their parents for months about an upcoming release, will probably have to wait until 2015, the author said. So far, the Norse series is still in the outline phase, and he has “Heroes of Olympus” and “Kane Chronicle” books to write.

In the post-Harry Potter universe, Riordan is a favorite choice for young fantasy readers, and Percy, the boy with a god for a father and the mortal afflictions of dyslexia and ADHD, is a popular idol. “The Heroes of Olympus,” a spinoff of the Jackson series, has an announced first printing of 3 million. E-books are the trend for adults, but Riordan, like other children’s authors, believes his readers prefer traditional books.

“When I write, I’m still imagining a kid reading it on paper,” he told the AP. “I read e-books when I travel, but in general I still prefer holding an old-fashioned book in my hands. There’s a special, tactile experience.”

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 kids and parents turned out for the “Son of Neptune” festival, where the 47-year-old Riordan’s plain blazer and slacks looked absolutely human amid actors and fans alike dressed in togas, wreaths, crowns and even a charioteer’s helmet. A toga station was set up for those who arrived without costume, and attendees were also presented with pens, posters and a chance to sit in a “party chariot.”

A mid-afternoon rainstorm, like a divine tantrum, crashed late enough for performers dressed as Aphrodite, Athena and other gods and goddesses to read from the new book and for medals to be presented to fans quizzed on ancient Greece and Rome. Riordan himself came out to answer a few questions, the kind you don’t expect from your average middle-schooler. One noted that Percy’s face on the cover of “Son of Neptune” has a scar that shouldn’t be possible for a boy dipped in the River Styx.

A boy named Lamont asked Riordan which god he considered the strongest.

“World wars have been fought over this question,” Riordan responded.

Another fan wondered if Riordan had seen the film version of “The Lightning Thief,” his first Jackson novel.

No, he hasn’t, Riordan said, and he probably never will.

“The images from the book you make in your head are always going to be the best images,” he said.

—Copyright 2011 Associated Press


Bipasha, Shahid’s travel plan


Greece Pledges $8.8 Billion in Austerity


Enlarge image

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

Greece’s government pledged to fire
workers as part of a 6.6 billion-euro ($8.8 billion) austerity
package designed to help secure a rescue-loan payout and a
second European Union-led bailout.

The steps outlined by Prime Minister George Papandreou’s
administration would leave a 2012 budget deficit equivalent to
6.8 percent of gross domestic product, missing the 6.5 percent
goal previously set with the EU, International Monetary Fund and
European Central Bank, known as the troika. Troika inspectors
agreed to the proposed 2012 budget.

The euro dropped to an eight-month low against the dollar
before European finance ministers gather today to consider an
enhancement to the region’s rescue fund and the risk of a Greek
default. Troika members had been squeezing Papandreou for deeper
spending cuts as the country’s three-year recession sapped the
revenue needed to close the fiscal gap.

“Important decisions which need to be taken on a European
level depend first and foremost on us,” Papandreou told his
ministers last night, according to an e-mailed statement from
his office in Athens. “We need to show our dedication to
reaching the goals.”

Parliament Hurdle

Greece’s measures, which require parliamentary approval,
aim to secure disbursement of an 8 billion-euro loan payout this
month and a second rescue of 109 billion euros agreed to by EU
leaders on July 21. Under the proposals, the deficit this year
would be 8.5 percent of GDP, compared with the 7.6 percent
target previously agreed with the troika. Next year’s gap is
seen at 14.7 billion euros, according to an e-mailed statement
from the finance ministry last night.

The euro fell 0.5 percent to $1.3327 as of 12:07 p.m. in
Tokyo. Stocks retreated, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index
dropping 2.9 percent.

Greece’s economy is forecast to shrink 5.5 percent this
year, more than the 3.8 percent forecast by the EU and IMF in
June, according to the statement.

Papandreou’s Cabinet approved the austerity measures on the
eve of a gathering of European finance ministers in Luxembourg
today. The region’s policy makers have been urged by
counterparts around the world to step up their response to the
sovereign debt crisis, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F.
Geithner
saying last week that “it’s time to move.”

Noyer on EFSF

Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer today said he’s
“open” to the idea of using borrowed money to enhance the
capabilities of the European Financial Stability Facility.

“It would be unrealistic to expect an increase in the EFSF
itself,” Noyer said in a speech in Tokyo. “But I am personally
open to any scheme that would allow existing commitments to be
leveraged to provide greater intervention capacity.”

The meeting was due to coincide with the payout of the
sixth installment of Greece’s original rescue. That 8 billion-
euro disbursement has been put off until later in October as the
troika gave Papandreou more time to close the deficit gap.
Papandreou announced last night that a special meeting of euro-
region finance ministers would take place on Oct. 13 to hear the
results of the troika’s review.

The austerity measures were detailed after the cabinet
meeting last night, which also approved the 2012 budget and the
plan to dismiss state workers. The government by December will
identify 30,000 public workers who will be put on reduced pay
and either retire early or eventually be fired. The plan aims to
save 300 million from the government wage bill in 2012.

Primary Budget

The budget foresees a primary surplus of 3.2 billion euros
next year, or 1.5 percent of GDP, according to the statement.

Inspectors from the troika returned to Athens on Sept. 29
to resume a quarterly review of the country’s performance in
meeting the conditions of the original bailout. They suspended
the inspection weeks earlier after finding that the government
was failing to implement measures agreed to in exchange for
continued aid.

After the troika halted the review on Sept. 1, Finance
Minister Evangelos Venizelos introduced a series of measures to
plug the budget gap for 2011, including a new property tax
approved by parliament on Sept. 27 and further cuts to pensions
and wages for state workers.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Marcus Bensasson in Athens at
[email protected];
Maria Petrakis at
[email protected];

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Craig Stirling at
[email protected]

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