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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-04-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM cites broad mandate for reforms during Parliament debate

  • [01] PM cites broad mandate for reforms during Parliament debate

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday hit back directly at main opposition PASOK's most recent criticism over the economy, citing what he called a "hidden programme" by the rival party opening the way for unrestricted firings and Nordic-level tax rates.

    Karamanlis, speaking at an off-the-agenda Parliament debate on the economy requested by PASOK leader George Papandreou, also juxtaposed his government's two-year track record while in office with the economic performance of successive and preceding PASOK governments, where Papandreou served as education and foreign affairs minister, among others.

    "Some people count backwards. It is not the government that proposes uninsured labour, i.e. the Lavrio proposal, and the supposed āScandinavian model' of redundancies and heavy taxes," Karamanlis said in Parliament, comments referring to the most recent statements of a senior PASOK cadre, deputy and former minister George Floridis, as well as a top Papandreou aide.

    Floridis' statements last week regarding a more flexible labour market caused his ouster as coordinator of PASOK's finance and economy policy, while academic Iraklis Polemarhakis' quip over incentives to raise retirement ages was also pounced upon by the ruling party and the press.

    "In response to a demand for insured labour, they (PASOK) respond with eliminating social insurance contributions; in response to a need for tax stability, they propose plans leading to tax raids, while accusing everyone else for what they are considering," the premier added.

    "They (PASOK) claim we are against collective bargaining talks when, in reality, an agreement between SEB (the federation of industries) and GSEE (the trade union umbrella group) was achieved (last week) ... they refer to the loss of jobs when the exact opposite is occurring. They speak of losses of Community funds when they are responsible for fines and shoddy workmanship (of delivered projects); for the land registry (project) debacle, and for the fact that in March 2004 most of the EU programmes were in the 'red zone'," Karamanlis charged from Parliament's podium.

    In citing one figure, Karamanlis said the average absorption rate of regional investment programmes was 15.6 percent during the last PASOK government under Costas Simitis, 2000-2004, whereas it has reached the 40-percent mark in the period since March 2004.

    Moreover, he reiterated his position that raising the country's competitiveness -- a standing government goal -- will not be achieved by squeezing labour costs, but only via the exploitation of new technologies, stepped up production and specific measures, such as slashing corporate tax rates, a new development law, more flexible shop hours and restoring the capital market's credibility following the 1999 bourse bubble, "credibility which had evaporated in the wake of the political and financial scandal at the Athens Stock Exchange".

    In focusing on the preceding PASOK governments' performance on the economic front, he said public debt in 1996-2003 doubled and that the budget deficit "proved five times higher than reported and double the euro zone ceiling".

    In returning to a favorite pre-election catchphrase, "creative bookkeeping", that he had repeatedly lobbed at the previous Simitis government, Karamanlis referred to both "machinations in order to cover-up failure" and "a well-planned trap" for the succeeding government.

    Citing last month's closely watched Eurostat decision on the listing of defence spending and arms purchases by member-states, Karamanlis charged that "others created the problem and others are dealing with it. Even so, the culprits are now impersonating the accusers. Instead of contributing to the resolution of the problem, they predicted Greece's censure by the ECOFIN council. Instead of asking for forgiveness from the citizens, they expected the imposition of harsh tax measures. We proved them wrong and we disappointed them," he said.

    Law on reform of state-run enterprises, utilities

    Karamanlis, furthermore, again appeared unwavering over a high-profile law reforming state-run enterprises and utilities, many of whom are increasingly loss-making, stressing that the "vicious cycle of deficits that are passed on to the taxpayer undermine development and must be stopped as soon as possible. This is what citizens demand. This is what we are doing..." he said, while referring to a broad "social alliance" backing the government's changes and reforms.

    Caption: PM Costas Karamanlis addresses Parliament on Thursday, April 13, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / P. Saitas.

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