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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-01

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>


NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 01/12/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Heavy floods kill three in northern Greece
  • Farmers' road blocks split country in two
  • Simitis arrives at OSCE summit
  • Alternate FM in Turkey
  • Crucial state budget tabled in Parliament
  • Farmer set himself alight in protest

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Heavy flooding continued on Sunday in the northern regions of Xanthi and Kavala, leaving three people dead, many injured and causing widespread damage. Farmer Kiosse Nezit, 30, Aristides Barbathanasis, 38 and his 14- year-old daughter Irene were killed in accidents during the floods.

    The province of Xanthi was declared in a state of emergency today and the Xenocrates plan put into action. The fire brigade received hundreds of calls from people trapped in flooded homes and stores. The Vistonida lake, as well as local rivers and canals have overflowed, causing damage to wheat and cotton crops. Road connections between Xanthi and Rhodope were cut off last night after the new bridge at Iasmos, Komotini subsided.

    Meanwhile heavy flooding was also reported in the streets of Patra, on the west coast of the Peloponnese late yesterday.

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippas Petsalnikos is in Xanthi to coordinate efforts to deal with the effects of the flood, believed to be the worst in the last fifty years. The Minister will give a press conference tomorrow.


    Farmers in the northern regions of Thessaloniki, Imathia, Pella and Pieria were proceeding to cut off western Macedonia from the city of Thessaloniki today, the third successive day of their protest. They are demanding cheaper fuel for agricultural use and increased subsidies for cultivated land.

    A road block of about 50 tractors has been set up on the Thessaloniki-Veria road, while another 40 have been parked across the old national road from Thessaloniki to Katerini, near the village of Kypseli.

    All road communications have been cut off at various points on the road from Lamia to Trikala, Karditsa and Larissa by farmers from the region of Domokos.

    Early this afternoon, farmers with about 100 tractors gathered at the Malagra bridge in the prefecture of Thessaloniki and blocked the Thessaloniki- Athens national highway. Traffic was being diverted to the old national road, although it was reported that farmers would be blocking that artery as well later this afternoon.

    Main opposition leader Miltiades Evertcalled on Prime Minister Kostas Simitis to meet with farmers' representatives as soon as possible, saying he feared the current situation could only get worse.

    Meanwhile, parents of large families whose subsidies are under threat in the new budget demonstrated in Thessaloniki today. A resolution was handed over to the Macedonia and Thrace Ministry calling the cuts "incomprehensible and inacceptable", adding that they would only exacerbate the country's demographic problem.

    Undersecretary to the Prime Minister's Office George Paschalidis had lengthy talks with farmers' representatives in Larissa, central Greece, on Friday night but the roadblocks remained in place on Saturday and Sunday, while farmers warned that they would continue their protest action until Christmas.

    Paschalidis had asked the farmers to suspend their mobilisations until next Friday, so that the government could have time to work out and propose new measures.


    A Greek delgation headed by Prime Minister Kostas Simitis arrived in the Portuguese capital early this evening to attend a summit conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which opens in Lisbon tomorrow.

    The summit's agenda is to concentrate on European security issues, as well as the OSCE's relations with Russia. According to an ANA dispatch from Lisbon this evening, diplomatic sources say the Greek Prime Minister, who is to address the summit tomorrow, is not expected to hold meetings with either Turkish President Suleiman Demirel or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia President Kiro Gligorov, although informal social meetings have not been ruled out. Greek-Turkish relations are not on the summit agenda.

    Meanwhile, it was reported that Simitis may have a short meeting with US Vice-President Al Gore on the sidelines of the conference.


    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in a meeting in Istanbul last night with Turkish Foreign Undersecretary Onur Oymen, raised the issue of reports that the Turkish ultra-nationalist group "Grey Wolves" had been involved in starting forest fires on Greek islands.

    According to diplomatic sources, Oymen denied any involvement in the matter on the part of the Turkish state, and stated that he would be making an announcement on the issue in due course. According to the same sources, Papandreou said that a simple statement would not be sufficient, and asked the Turkish official for an in-depth investigation into the charges.


    The government on Friday tabled in Parliament the state budget for 1997 in the aftermath of a nationwide strike and workers' protests against planned elimination of tax breaks, as well as small salary and pension increases.

    A five-day debate on the budget, submitted by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, begins in Parliament on Tuesday, Dec. 17, culminating in a vote on Saturday, Dec. 21.

    The relevant Parliamentary committee will hold a three-day discussion on the budget starting next Wednesday.

    Presenting the budget, Mr. Papantoniou reiterated that no new taxes would be imposed in 1997, apart from those already announced and contained in the budget.

    He said the government's target of 4.5 per cent inflation for 1997 was "ambitious but necessary, because everything depends on the reduction of inflation."

    The budget provides for an increase in tax revenue of approximately one trillion drachmas compared to this year's estimated collected revenue.

    The additional revenue will come from 19 main sources, including the taxation of bonds, treasury bills and foreign exchange deposits, taxation of large real estate holdings, abolition of tax exemptions and fines for illegal construction.

    The 1997 regular budget provides for revenue of 2.271 trillion drachmas from income tax and 127.5 billion drachmas from real estate tax, of which 25 billion drachmas will come from the new provision taxing large real estate holdings.

    Indirect taxation will contribute 5.014 trillion drachmas to state coffers, of which 84 billion drachmas will come from road tax, 145.3 billion drachmas from the special consumption tax on private vehicles, 955.5 billion from fuel tax, 76. 2 billion dra chmas from the tax on alcoholic beverages and 465.2 billion drachmas from the tobacco tax.

    Value Added Tax (VAT) is expected to contribute a total of 2.520 trillion drachmas, while non-fiscal revenue will reach 843.6 billion drachmas.

    The total revenue of the general budget is 9.532 trillion drachmas, an increase of 17.5 per cent over 1996, of which the regular budget will account for 8.715 trillion drachmas, marking an increase of 15.6 per cent.

    On the other side, the general budget provides for total expenditures of 11.891 trillion drachmas, an increase of 9.4 per cent, of which 10.225 trillion drachmas are the regular expenditures of ministries etc., an increase of 4.9 per cent, and more than 1 .66 trillion drachmas are for the Public Investment Programme, an increase of 48.8 per cent.

    On the basis of these figures, the deficit, or borrowing requirements, will total 2.010 trillion drachmas, marking a drop of 27.1 per cent. The regular budget deficit, without debt servicing, is estimated at 1.510 trillion drachmas, marking a decrease o f 31.7 per cent.

    As a percentage of GDP, the deficit will therefore fall to 6.2 per cent, from 9.3 per cent this year.

    The 1997 budget allocates 696.85 billion drachmas for defence, an increase of 12.8 per cent, 1.158 trillion drachmas for education, up 18.4 per cent, 809.95 billion drachmas for health and social welfare, an increase of 10.9 per cent, 1.015 trillion dra chmas for social security, up 2.8 per cent, 175 billion drachmas for social policy, 390 billion drachmas for agriculture, an increase of 7 per cent, and 4.176 billion drachmas for other expenditures, an increase of 15.7 per cent.

    Following a meeting with ND deputies on the budget, main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert said the government was "following the established course, launching a tax raid which will be paid by those having no hope under the sun."

    Mr. Evert said the policy of increasing taxes would lead the economy into recession and dismissed government forecasts of inflation for 1997 as "unrealistic."

    Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the tabling of the 1997 budget was surrounded by "an atmosphere of rage and indignation" in Greek society.

    Describing the 1997 budget as "insincere," he said its basic figures, like inflation, "are portrayed with the traditional government tricks."

    The leader of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), Dimitris Tsovolas, said the budget was "inhumane", "class discriminating," and led to a "deadlock."

    "The 1997 budget will make the rich richer and the poor poorer and will increase instead of solve the financial and social problems," he added.


    A 57-year-old farmer doused himself with petrol and set himself alight yesterday after being prevented from selling his fruit and vegetables at a street market in Ierapetra, Crete.

    Pavlos Grigoriou, from Trikala, was prevented from selling his produce by colleagues who said he did not have the necessary licence.

    Grigoriou, who has lived for the past 13 years in Ierapetra, went to a nearby playground, doused himself with petrol and set fire to himself.

    He is currently in serious condition in Heraklion University Hospial with first and second degree burns.

    WEATHER

    Wet and windy in Athens, improving later in the day. Temperatures 12-17C. Thessaloniki temperatures will range from 4-14C. Similar conditions throughout the country forecast for tomorrow.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Closing rates (buying), Friday November 29

    U.S. dlr 239.628, Can. dlr.177.370, Australian dlr. 194.035, Pound sterling 403.228, Irish punt 403.446, Cyprus pd 516.832, French franc 45.938, Swiss franc 184.398 Belgian franc 7.574, German mark 156.066, Finnish mark 52.050, Dutch guilder 139.138, Danish Kr. 40.722, Swedish Kr. 35.775, Norwegian Kr. 37.408, Austrian Sh. 22.179, Italian lira (100) 15.833, Yen (100) 210.582, Spanish Peseta 1.852, Portuguese Escudo 1.546.

    (M.S.)


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