Business Briefs…Business Briefs…

• Portugal’s growth will lag behind other euro-area nations, the International Monetary Fund warned. In its annual consultation with Lisbon, the IMF said it projects Portugal’s economy will grow one per cent in 2004. Reform of the civil service and public sectors is essential if Portuguese authorities expect to restore Portugal’s competitiveness. Lower civil service wages, better education and vocational training, and more research and development investments are sorely needed. The government called the IMF’s latest forecasts for Portugal’s budget deficit “very pessimistic”, as the IMF figures are based on expected tax revenue levels lower than those established in the budget for 2004.

• Portugal is investing 428m euros in improving airport infrastructures, including projects under construction and others to start in 2004.

• Transactions made with MasterCard credit cards in Portugal totalled 321.3m euros in 2003, up 12.1 per cent year-on-year. The number of transactions with credit and debit cards of Visa International in Portugal totalled 402m euros in 2003, up 12.8 per cent year-on-year. The majority of Portuguese banks will start issuing chip payment cards as of May 2004.

• Portuguese sales of Coca Cola totalled 240m litres in 2003, which corresponded to a 23 per cent share of the soft drink market in the country.

• A TAP-Air Portugal aircraft, carrying 154 passengers from Lisbon to the island of Madeira, was forced to return to the Portuguese capital on Sunday after the window of the cockpit cracked half an hour after takeoff.

• TV Cabo is to launch a new paid TV channel dedicated to action-oriented films.

•Revenue from mobile phone multimedia traffic is expected to rise 20 per cent because of the European soccer championship and Rock in Rio music festival.

• CP will start transportation of jet-fuel to the airport in Faro in April 2004, under a contract between CP and oil company Petrogal.

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