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A.N.A. Bulletin, 28/08/96

From: "Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada" <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

Athens News Agency Directory

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 974), August 28, 1996

Greek Press & Information Office

Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [1] Evert cites early elections as proof of economic stalemate

  • [2] Election battle will be fought over economy, Papantoniou says

  • [3] Reppas says PASOK wants 'high standard' pre-election dialogue

  • [4] Venizelos says measures taken for smooth elections

  • [5] Thessaloniki International Fair looks to the Balkans

  • [6] Outbreak of food poisoning aboard ship


  • [1] Evert cites early elections as proof of economic stalemate

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert yesterday renewed accusations of unreliability against Prime Minister Costas Simitis, charging that his calling of early general election on Sept. 22 represented an admission of the economic stalemate facing the country.

    Mr. Evert also said the premier did not tell the Greek people the truth on the issue.

    "The Greek people know where the truth is, and will give victory to New Democracy, being tired of sterile monologues and empty words," he told a joint meeting of the party's Parliamentary group and central committee, renewing his proposal for three television debates with the PASOK leader.

    Putting increased emphasis on economic measures, he said ND will present a thorough four-year schedule for reforming the public sector through drastic reductions in wasteful spending and consumption, which, he claimed, can save 320 billion drachmas.

    He added that his government will revise the convergence program with other European economies, with a view to achieving higher growth rates, in the order of 4 per cent annually.

    Particular economic measures to be introduced, he said, include the abolition of the so-called objective taxation criteria and the 35 per cent company tax, a 50 per cent reduction in tax rates in border regions as well as tax incentives for the stock market.

    He also placed particular emphasis on measures and incentives that would boost farmers' income and increase farmers' pensions, adding that he will try to effect a re-allocation of the Delors II package in favor of the agricultural sector.

    "As government, New Democracy will engage in a continuous dialogue with all parties, social groups and the people, but when decisions are adopted, nothing will stop us, and we shall not permit organized interests to stand in the way of our task," he warned.

    He promised that until January 1997, his government will have voted through laws on the modernization of the civil service and the establishment of a national council on foreign affairs and defense.

    Mr. Evert called on ND members to inform the Greek people of the program he has drawn up, which he said "has realistic and secure solutions to create a new era."

    The ND leader called on candidates not to make promises they will not be able to keep after the elections, saying "the people will not forgive any more lies; we must speak to them of tomorrow with specific proposals, without generalizations, abstract meanings and evasions."

    Concerning national issues, he said ND's programs will include the drawing up of a unified national foreign and defense policy; Greece's European direction; the entry of Cyprus into the EU; decisive dealing with Turkish provocativeness and expansionism; immediate reinforcement of the country's defense; reinforcement of inter-Balkan co-operation and the taking of initiatives for peace and co-operation in the Balkan region.

    ND's policies will include a revision of the convergence program, with an expected investment development rate at 4 per cent, instead of the 2 per cent foreseen by the government; absorption of EU funds; no new taxes; a reduction of waste in order to reduce the deficit as well as an increase of income through trimming the public sector from the current 40 per cent to 32 per cent over five years.

    Mr. Evert accused the government of delay in absorbing EU funds, amounting to 1.6 trillion drachmas, due to its "inaction and inability". He said absorption would provide income with an additional increase of the GDP by 2.5 per cent and would contribute to the increase of public income by 400 to 500 billion drachmas.

    [2] Election battle will be fought over economy, Papantoniou says

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    The economy and economic policies are at the heart of the upcoming election battle, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told a news conference yesterday.

    Presenting the ruling PASOK party's economic platform, Mr. Papantoniou said the government had laid the groundwork for stability and growth over the past three years.

    Responding to criticism of the government's economic policies by main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert, Mr. Papantoniou said:

    "Evert has the nerve to refer to the public deficit and inflation when, in both instances, ND failed."

    "Under New Democracy inflation increased, and under PASOK it fell," the minister said. "The government inherited an inflation rate of 14.4 per cent and has brought it down to 8.2 per cent, which is the average annualized rate for this year".

    He added that under ND, real wages for workers decreased by 15.6 per cent, while since 1994 and with the PASOK government, there has been a reasonable rise in incomes.

    "The debt in the public sector in 1993 had reached the unprecedented figure of 14.2 per cent of GDP and in three years, we reduced this by half to 7.6 per cent of GDP," he added.

    Growth in 1993 recorded a negative rate, falling by one percentage point, he continued. The government has succeeded in considerably accelerating the growth rate, bringing it to 2.6 per cent, more than that foreseen in the convergence program.

    He added that private investments have also increased in this period and that this year will see a 100 per cent absorption rate for European Community funds.

    He said results of PASOK's economic policy would constitute the basic key to victory in the forthcoming Sept. 22 elections, already indicated by what he called a rise in the Athens stock exchange's share prices composite index.

    He said combined private and public investment was increasing at a rate of 11.3 per cent in 1996, compared with the negative rate of 2.6 per cent in 1993. Mr. Papantoniou attributed this fact to a drastic fall in interest rates and to satisfactory growth rates.

    Referring to real wages, Mr. Papantoniou pointed out that under a ND government in 1993, income for workers fell by 5.1 per cent while today it is increasing at a rate of 1.7 per cent.

    In addition, he stressed that a mixture of macro-economic policy that was implemented and improvement in macro-economic indicators has led to the development of a steady climate of confidence and an optimistic outlook within the business world.

    "In terms of nominal convergence, Greece in 1996 has covered two-thirds of the distance which separated it in 1993 from meeting criteria of the Maastricht Treaty," he said. All the goals of the economic policy that the PASOK government had defined at the beginning of the three-year period have been achieved, Mr. Papantoniou told reporters.

    The PASOK government's moves to bolster competitiveness, the restructuring of the public sector and improvement in the institutional framework for the functioning of markets had been particularly important, he noted.

    He said PASOK's plans for the next four-year period did not include imposition of new taxes, as the necessary funds for the budget will be found both from limiting spending and fighting tax evasion, as well as from revenue resulting from higher rates of growth.

    He added that a privatization program would proceed on the basis of the government's announcements and stressed that there would be no changes in the social security system.

    In response to charges by former ND national economy minister Stephanos Manos that the ministry's figures were "untrue", Mr. Papantoniou said Mr. Manos' comments were "in poor taste, to say the least, as all international organizations and the European Union recognize them (the figures) and use them." Reactions On its part, ND yesterday issued a list of reasons criticizing PASOK's economic performance while holding the nation's reins.

    "It is known to everyone that the main reason for the holding of early elections is the current economic impasse," an economic adviser to the main opposition leader responded.

    Prof. Giorgos Alagoskoufis cited four reasons that allegedly prove that the economy is not PASOK's "trump card" in next month's elections.

    The ND adviser said that during the total of 12 years of PASOK rule since 1981, which was interrupted by a three-year ND government in 1990-93, unemployment rose from 4 per cent in 1981 to 10 per cent in 1996, while the national debt increased from 27 per cent of the GDP in 1981 to 111.5 per cent of GDP in 1996.

    Regarding inflationary trends during the past 15 years, Mr. Alagoskoufis said inflation fell to 10.2 per cent in 1994 from a 23.9 per cent mark in 1990, during ND's rule. In addition, he stressed that no significant downward trend has been noted in inflation during PASOK's tenure.

    Mr. Alagoskoufis further blamed PASOK for what he called Greece's "failure to join the European Monetary Union."

    Meanwhile, the Political Spring party said Mr. Papantoniou's comments were a statement of intent for the continuation of austerity and "not solutions to the problems of the people."

    "Neither PASOK nor ND can provide Greece with development, which is requested by the young unemployed, farmers, small-and medium-sized business owners and pensioners," Political Spring spokesman Notis Martakis said.

    "Solutions which affect all social levels will be provided by the powers which are led by economic growth and social sensitivity.

    In view of a potential win, Mr. Alagoskoufis said ND will limit public expenditures in its effort to shrink the national debt, claiming that PASOK will try and achieve the same goal through an increase of taxes.

    Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) high-ranking official Spyros Halvatzis called Mr. Papantoniou's statements "false," saying that "new harsh austerity and new handouts to big business" would be part of a new PASOK government's policy.

    Mr. Halvatzis said it was Mr. Papantoniou's right "to appear cynical when referring to economic policy," but added "he has no right to tell lies. Numbers are relentless," he said, adding that "even indicators do not seem to be promising."

    Speaking on Mr. Papantoniou's statements regarding the development of economic figures, Mr. Halvatzis stressed that the finance minister's claims do not correspond with reality and insult the intelligence of the people.

    Speaking on the course of inflation, Mr. Halvatzis noted it remains high despite what he called severe and "unpopular" austerity measures, adding that only a strong KKE constitutes "a hope for a counterattack against the new imminent conservative storm. "

    Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) economic policy adviser G. Dragasakis said Mr. Papantoniou's statements aimed "at prettifying the past and obscuring the future."

    Mr. Dragasakis accused the government of not "daring to speak openly about the country's economic problems..."

    [3] Reppas says PASOK wants 'high standard' pre-election dialogue

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    Dialogue in the pre-election period must be of a high standard, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas warned yesterday, responding to press questions regarding Prime Minister Costas Simitis' announced televised debate with main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert.

    Mr. Reppas said this dialogue could assist in making problems understandable but added that political figures should not be made into "television stars".

    "The government is opposed to the creation of impressions which only serve to conceal the real problems facing the country and the people," he said. Asked whether Mr. Simitis had plans to debate other political leaders, Mr. Reppas replied that all the parties had the opportunity to promote their positions on television and said that details would be discussed in the next few days.

    The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party, meanwhile, proposed that political leaders give three joint news conferences - one a week - at the Zappeion Hall.

    Synaspismos' press spokesman said PASOK and ND "rather than arguing about the Simitis-Evert debate" are obliged to show dialogue between all the political leaders. This dialogue should be one of substance and not an orchestrated bi-partisan march, he said.

    A later announcement by the Political Spring party reiterated its call for dialogue between all political leaders.

    Political Spring spokesman Notis Martakis stated "democracy was not the sole property either of Mr. Simitis or of Mr. Evert."

    [4] Venizelos says measures taken for smooth elections

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    All measures for the smooth operation of Parliamentary elections on Sept. 22 have been taken, Justice Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday at a press conference.

    The drafting of electoral rolls will have been completed by tomorrow evening, and they will then be forwarded for ratification by the local courts, he added.

    Mr. Venizelos said he had already been in touch with the president and prosecutor of the Supreme Court, and other legal officials on preparations for the early poll.

    He said appointment of attorneys to oversee procedures had been made with "excellent" co-operation with the Athens Bar Association and that the selection would be made on the basis of objective criteria and in single-seat constituencies, by ballot.

    A new measure in this year's poll will be the ability of inmates in the country's 28 prisons to vote. Those exempted will be those inmates serving life sentences or those whose political rights have been withdrawn by court order.

    [5] Thessaloniki International Fair looks to the Balkans

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (HELEXPO - DETH) president Antonis Kourtis said yesterday the character of this year's exhibition, to run between September 7 and 16, will be marked by important innovations and its opening to the Balkans.

    In a press conference, he said the innovations will include the publication and promotion of DETH's electronic catalogues, and a linking of the general promotion with the particular.

    "HELEXPO's goal is to bring out particular sectors of strong economic interest, which, it is hoped, will function in a 'spill-over' fashion in upgrading DETH's overall effectiveness," he said.

    Institutional innovations will include special promotions of electrical and electronic equipment, with special showrooms in pavilions 3 and 17, with the participation of over 100 exhibitors, including members of the Association of Construction Companies and mechanical equipment firms. Greek car dealers will also be participating in a special pavilion.

    Mr. Kourtis pointed out that co-operation with the Balkan countries is being expanded with the joint organization of exhibitions, and the setting up of a Directorate of External Relations and Communication, also concerning central and eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

    He also announced that the Inter-Balkan / Black Sea Business Center will have its management appointed and begin operating in the next few days.

    This year's exhibition, occupying a total area of 18 hectares, will host 3,000 direct and indirect exhibitors from all five continents. More than 40 countries will be represented, 17 of them with an official state participation. There will be special participation of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, the Energy Directorate of the European Commission, Greek ministries, organizations, twelve banks and tens of public utilities.

    [6] Outbreak of food poisoning aboard ship

    Athens, 28/08/1996 (ANA)

    A Liberian-flag cruise ship sailed into the port city of Iraklio, Crete, yesterday with 400 of its 1,300 passengers showing symptoms of gastroenteritis, according to early police reports.

    Doctors from Iraklion hospitals immediately boarded the Italian-owned cruise ship "Costa Riviera" to treat passengers, while police barred other persons from boarding the vessel.

    Ambulances and first-aid supplies have been rushed to Iraklion port. Police said among the ailing passengers, most of whom are Italians, were several children.

    The cruise ship is on a tour of Ionian and Aegean islands.

    A later report said that some 20 passengers, including two children, had been transferred to an Iraklion hospital with severe gastroenteritis.

    The prefectural medical officer Rakitzakis said some 450 people had been affected by gastroenteritis but said "we are not concerned that there is any infectious disease".

    He said his services were conducting a case-by-case evaluation and that passengers were being transferred to hospital.

    Veterinary services are also taking samples from the food and water aboard the ship to isolate the cause.

    He added that the first cases of food poisoning had appeared before the Costa Riviera arrived in Greek waters. The food onboard the ship had come from Italy, he added.

    The director of Iraklion's Venizelos Hospital, Haralambos Doulgerakis, meanwhile, said passengers with heart conditions would be transferred to the hospital but could not say how many passengers in total would be treated.

    Initial examinations, he added, show that the cases originate from food and all 450 passengers are suffering from fever, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pains.

    Ninety per cent of the passengers are Italian, with the remainder British and American.

    End of English language section.

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