|Monday, 19 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-09-10
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greek govt to seek bold reforms with social support, PM saysGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday said his government would seek bold reforms with social support in an effort to create a more effective state that would fulfil its social task and achieve sustainable growth focused on people.
In the traditional prime minister's speech to representatives of the country's producing sector, in the framework of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair, Karamanlis stressed that this strategy was tested and was guaranteing positive results.
"The world has entered a new era. An era of rapid transformations and high speeds. A revolution in knowledge and technology is changing social and economic conditions very rapidly. We live in an era of free movement of people, ideas, goods and capital. In the era of globalisation. And globalisation is not just something to do with trade, market and the economy. It is also a political, social and cultural phenomenon. A complex phenomenon that creates new possibilities and opportunities, but also new uncertainties. The challenges are huge and interdependence is increasing. The world map is taking another form. In Asia, countries vast in geography and population (such as India and China) are seeking significant shares of the world market offering low-cost products and services, in Eastern Europe new dynamic and competitive liberal democracies are developing and in the European Union, the rejection of a European Constitution in France and the Netherlands combined with disagreements over the EU's future budget highlighted new speculation," Karamanlis said.
The Greek Premier stressed that in every period of major changes in history, a fear over new things and scepticism over possible problems emerged. The citizens of Europe are worried more over economic growth, employment, environment and health pushing the EU to adopt policies seeking more rapid growth rates with emphasis given on competitiveness, protecting the environment and social cohesion.
Karamanlis underlined increasing global uncertainties due to international terrrorism and increasing oil prices in international markets, a development with major consequences to economies, state budgets and price stability.
The Greek Premier said that all these problems particularly affected Greece since the country (in the past) lagged behind its EU partners in competitiveness, oil dependence, foreign direct investments, trade deficit, per capita income, regional and social imbalances, unemployment, fiscal deficits and public debt.
"This is the truth. And and the Greek people know the truth," Karamanlis said, adding that the government was very well aware of the problems, their size and their significance. The hardships in daily life caused by bureaucracy and corruption, environmental pollution, crime, drugs, poverty, rising prices and unemployment.
"We know the reality and we hear the citizen's needs. That's why we chose policies that will lead us, mildly but effectively, to resolving past problems and ensuring a new prospect. We chose policies resolving problems. Policies creating a healthy basis for a better life for all," he noted.
Karamanlis unveiled the main axes of the government policies: re-inventing the state and seeking economic growth based on people. "Our choice is the strategy of changes and reforms. A strategy of bold reforms with the consent of the people. A strategy tested and guaranteeing positive results," he said.
The Greek PM referred to the government's policies during the past 18 months saying policy priorities were moves to simplify procedures, promoting electronic governance, combatting corruption and bureaucracy. "We know that things cannot change from one day to the other. It demands consistent and hard work. We are committed to re-inventing the state and to seek a more productive public sector, strengthening central administration's executive and controlling roles, promoting a fundamental strengthening of local authorities, and introducing a new immigration policy."
Karamanlis underlined that government's policies were also seeking to encourage and support regional growth, competitiveness, business activity and attracting domestic and foreign direct investments. "It is a model for a competitive, export-oriented Greece with a strong international presence," he said.
"The country needs more. A round of changes and reforms continues in all sectors clear from past dogma and ideas, with social responsibility and effectiveness. We proceed with a specific Road Plan. With parallel actions in 14 sectors," Karamanlis said.
These actions are:
-Privatisations: The government has exceeded its goals with revenues from privatisation totalling 2.1 billion euros this year, up 30 percent from budget provisions. The government also prepared the ground to expanding its privatisation programme with the inclusion of Athens International Airport, Post Savings bank and state-owned ports. Emporiki Bank and Agricultural Bank were also attracting large institutional investors' interest following their restructuring.
-Joint ventures between public and private sector companies in major projects in the country,
-Restructuring of enterprises in the wider public sector, a reform urgently needed by the economy. (Karamanlis referred to Olympic Airways and Hellenic Railways). Our decision is, for all public sector enterprises, to ensure their social role and to respect taxpayers' money. We will enhance supervision, introduce corporate governance principles and international accounting standards to all public sector enterprises. For those enterprises listed in the Athens Stock Exchange the government plans a gradual adjustment of labour relations to those in the private sector but for new hirings only. The government will not harm workers' rights.
-Deregulating the domestic electricity and natural gas markets, along with policies aimed to reduce the country's dependance from oil.
-Drafting a national plan for Renewable Energy Sources, Tourism, Industry, Mountains and the country's shoreline to facilitate investment decisions.
-Reforming incentives to encourage foreign and domestic enterprises -offering services exclusively abroad, to be based in Greece.
-Facilitating procedures to set up and end business activities along with a reform of the country's bankruptcy legislation.
-Drafting a new regulatory framework for evaluating the impact of legislation on competitiveness and growth.
-Making a more efficient use of public sector's real estate.
-Containing public sector's consumer spending, with stricter fiscal inspections, new rules in defence supplies. Defence spending would be reduced to 2.96 percent in 2005-2006 from 4.1 percent of GDP in 1999-2003, while measures will be taken to support the domestic defence industry.
-Beginning a long-term dialogue on reforming the country's pension system. The government is seeking cooperation with all social partners and political parties.
-Drastically combatting smuggling and tax evasion by economically strong social groups. The state will be relentless. No one stands above the law.
-Gradually reducing tax factors from 2007 aiming to further support growth, and
-Regional restructuring ahead of an EU Fourth Community Support Framework."
Karamanlis said the government was currently drafting a National Growth Plan for the period 2007-2013, aiming to make a more efficient use of national and community funds. "A growth plan with responsibility for a dynamic and competitive economy," he noted.
The Greek Prime Minister reiterated the government's commitment to support regional growth, to highlight the country's competitive advantages, to use its geopolitical position and to constantly invest in human capital, education, culture, new technologies.
Karamanlis said the government aimed to link education with production and labour markets, to ensure quality in high-level education and to promote Information Society. "We invest in new technologies, research and innovation, with the aim to use new technologies throughout the economy. Our aim is a Greece with a digital advantage in New Economy".
Karamanlis stressed the government was working hard to encourage business activity, to support farmers' income, to financially support enterpreunship by women and younger people, self-employment and small- and medium-sized enterprises for hiring new workers. "Neither me, or any other member of the government can feel satisfied with unemployment at current levels. We will continue our efforts," the Greek Premier stressed.
Karamanlis also underlined the government's determination to combat profiteering in the market and reiterated government measures to improve conditions in the health sector.
"It is obvious there is more road ahead. We need time to overcome past problems and for new policies to have results. But early signs are already visible. The fiscal deficit will fall below 3.0 percent of GDP by the end of 2006, unemployment is down, growth rates are the highest in the Eurozone, investment activity is starting up, foreign investors are showing increased confidence in the Greek economy, tourist arrivals rose along with Greek exports. All these justify the policy of changes and reforms promoted by the government," the prime minister said.
"We cannot afford to lose any more time. We will implement our programme, approved by citizens. Our aim is a competitive and strong economy," Karamanlis said.
"Greeks did not just choose another government. They chose reform for the re-invention of state, for economic growth focused on people, for an economy with opportunities, for a society of cohesion and trust. I know that Greeks and I share the same vision. I have full confidence that the road of reforms leads safely to a better Greece. I have great confidence to citizens. I am confident we can make our vision for a Greece in the 21st centure a reality. All together," Karamanlis stressed.
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