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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-05-31

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PASOK leader renews call for early elections
  • [02] Budget deficit down 19.3% in Jan-Apr, yr/yr

  • [01] PASOK leader renews call for early elections

    Main opposition leader George Papandreou on Thursday renewed his call for early general elections "so as to rid the country of a prime minister who is a hostage and close a right-wing parenthesis (in government) as soon as possible", in an address to the parliament plenary.

    Intervening in a Parliament debate on a draft law tabled by PASOK on the public sector hiring process, Papandreou also referred to the structured bonds affair, accusing the government of holding back information in order to impede a judicial investigation.

    "The political and criminal responsibilities have no statute of limitations. The return of the looted monies does not abolish the theft, nor does it absolve the perpetrators. Who stole the money? Who bears the political and criminal responsibilities? Why isn't prosecution being set in motion? Which and where are the contracts for all the bonds? Mr. Karamanlis (prime minister) has shamelessly, for 93 days, been refusing to release the figures. Ninety-three days of concealment and collusion," Papandreou said.

    Turning to other matters, Papandreou accused the government of "365,000 (public sector) appointments over a three-year period, more than 200,000 of which were opaque appointments of 'friends'. Over the past three years, 33,000 public projects contracts were signed with physical entities," Papandreou said, inter alia, adding that 330 new committees and task groups, with paying positions, were created by the government, as well as 165 positions of consultants to ministers, "whereas when I would take on a consultant at the foreign ministry (under the preceding PASOK government), you would create a furore".

    Referring to the prime minister's recent visit to Australia, Papandreou said that "foreign strategy has been abandoned by Mr. Karamanlis", adding that his meetings with the Greeks of Australia comprised a "campaign stroll in Australia, in order to avoid increasing public dissatisfaction".

    Gov't reaction

    Responding to Papandreou's statements, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the level of political discussion was discouraging, adding that the PASOK leader had not brought anything to the discussion other than rumours, speculation and press claims.

    "Even if the PASOK leader's numbers, concerning 365,000 appointments, are correct, during the last three years of the Simitis (PASOK) government, the approvals were many more, numbering 436,992," Pavlopoulos said.

    "There is no 'blue' state. There had been a 'green' state, however, and it is apparent from Mr. Papandreou's words that he misses that," he said.

    Pavlopoulos further expressed displeasure with Papandreou's comment on the prime minister's visit to Australia, saying that "the prime minister was not taking strolls in Australia, but went there to see the ethnic Greek community, which no Greek prime minister before him went to see, and to solve long-standing problems".

    As for the contracts for structured bonds, Pavlopoulos said they were all listed on the Bloomberg website. "Doesn't PASOK have people to see them?".

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur N. Gatzis spoke of a "bi-partisan argument lacking substance, one that uses the parliament podium as a campaign speech podium".

    Coalition of the Left, (Synaspismos) rapporteur Fotis Kouvelis said the two mainstream parties were to blame for the fact that the public sector had lost its ability to participate productively in the development of the country.

    In comments on Papandreou's speech, meanwhile, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros accused the main opposition leader of "trying to divide Greeks".

    "He is resorting to abuse and creating conditions of polarisation because he believes that, in this way, he is serving his personal interests. By dividing Greeks he is dividing the country and taking it decades back. We will not follow him. We will leave him alone on this downhill course," Antonaros said.

    Regarding the structured bonds affair, meanwhile, the spokesman stressed that the government "has already said everything it has to say".

    "This affair is now on its way to justice and the appropriate authorities," he added in response to questions.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Papandreou.

    [02] Budget deficit down 19.3% in Jan-Apr, yr/yr

    Greece's budget deficit shrank by 19.3 percent in the first four months of 2007, compared with the same period last year, down to 2.2 billion euros from 2.735 billion euros in the January-April period in 2006, the General Accounting Office announced on Thursday.

    The agency, in a report, said that regular budget revenues rose 9.8 pct in the first four months of the year, exceeding a 7.2-pct annual target cited in the budget, while net budget revenues grew 4.9 pct from a budget target of 6.2 pct.

    Budget spending grew 6.0 pct, slightly up from a budget target of 6.3 pct, with primary spending up 10.7 pct (7.4 pct) and capital spending down 11.7 pct compared with a budget target for an 1.7 pct growth rate this year.

    Public Investment Programme's revenues (covering mainly EU fund inflows) soared 95.7 pct in the January-April period, sharply up compared with a 4.7-pct budget target for the year, while spending grew 31.5 percent compared with a 6.9 pct budget target.

    ANA-MPA / EPA file photo.


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