|Sunday, 18 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 24 December 2009 Issue No: 3382
PM says government determined to change things in country
Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday night that his government had transparency as condition of governance, while concluding a five-day parlia-mentary debate on the 2010 state budget.
Papandreou reiterated that his government was determined to "change things in the country...Those who search to downgrade our great institutional reforms regarding the state should ask themselves why our efforts failed in the past."
The basic target of the government is, as the premier said, "apart from fiscal and economic adjustment, the regaining of the confidence of the citizen towards the state and re-establishing Greece's credibility in the eyes of its European partners."
"We should, all together, prepare a strict timeframe regarding necessary reforms," Papandreou said.
The principles that would govern the budgets of the new government and their implementation are transparency, rentability and fair taxation for a fair redistribution of wealth, the premier said.
"In this difficult conjuncture, all must contribute according to their capability. Because there are 500,000 unemployed that need real support, and social inequalities provoke tensions," the premier said.
Referring to the government's work since its coming to office last October, Papandreou said the cabinet has already approved nine bills, and added that the difference between his PASOK government and the previous New Democracy government was not quantitave "but concerns the orientation it serves: Who is being served by it. Our option is crystal clear: We serve the Greek citizen and only him."
 ND leader on state budgetMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras termed the 2010 state budget, tabled by the PASOK government, as "non-transparent regarding its perspectives", while speaking in Parliament on Wednesday night.
Samaras said that his party would vote against the state budget, apart from expenditures regarding the presidency of the republic, while reiterating that his main opposition party would not "place itself against what we agree," and that it would support the implimentation of necessary economic measures.
He accused the government of not coming to the House in order to pass "a budget of emergency but of gaining time until you understand where you are."
According to the ND leader, the effort for stabilising the Greek economy should include measures such as enlarging the tax base instead of suffocating the market with new taxes and the adoption of objective consumption criteria.
Regarding state expenditures, Samaras said that the state should contain the public sector's extravagance something that could save around 5 billion Euros.
He also said that he waas opposed to any increase in fuel prices.
According to the ND leader, the country's deficit would not exceed 9.7 per cent of the GDP, and accused the PASOK government of manipulating figures in order to attack the ND when it was in office. Samaras also called on the government to "take drastic measures, something you do not do. The markets are punishing you, they are continuously downgrading Greece."
Regarding foreign policy issues, Samaras said "when we speak of red lines in foreign policy we mean the ultimate lines of compromise on a great issue. But foreign policy should also target our maximum realistic goals."
 KKE leader addresses Parliamentary debateCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday evening during the debate on the new state budget, said the new budget was "consistent with the PASOK party's election programme which has, however, a propaganda wrapping".
Papariga added that for her party "the storm of antilabour measures that is coming was expected, it had predicted it and had told it to the Greek people."
She also criticised the other opposition parties, saying "they have no substantive differences and side with the capitalist growth model that the government is implementing at the expense of working people."
"The only difference between main opposition New Democracy (ND) and PASOK regards the way of implementing this growth model. You did not abolish any law of ND. You are stepping on them, you correct them and make them worse," she stressed.
Papariga said that ruling PASOK "is using the economic crisis of the capitalist system as an alibi" and that it "has no ground for manoeuvres and its only solution is its antilabour policy that it is concealing."
Lastly, Papariga accused PASOK of making a conscious effort to slander her party, adding that "the popular movement has not said the last word. The Greek people only have one possibility, to correct their vote with struggles."
 LA.OS party leader on state budgetPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday evening during the debate on the state budget, attributed longstanding responsibilities to the two main steam parties that rule the country, questioned the government's ability to curb the deficit and provide measures for the recovery of the economy.
Karatzaferis also called on the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras to change position on the issue of granting Greek citizenship to immigrants and to state his stance on Turkey's accession course and on the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
He further criticised the government's intention to grant voting rights to immigrants, stating that the adoption of this policy will find LA.OS opposed and appealed to the democratic sensitivity of parties not to accept it.
"Lets go to the people to tell us if they want the vote for immigrants and citizenship, the people must speak with a referendum," he said.
 Tsipras on state budgetRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alexis Tsipras, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday evening during the debate on the new state budget, likened the state of the economy with the national motorway following the landslide at Tempi, central Greece, that cut the country into two.
Tsipras added that the case of prosperity in Greece is similar, the citizens are constantly paying the cost of prosperity that is expected.
Tsipras, who raised the isseu of what happened with the benefits of growth of a single decade from 1997-2007, claiming that "they went for military armaments, the costly Olympic Games projects, tax exemptions, systematic tax evasion and deposits in Switzerland."
He further said that unemployment was currently at dramatic levels, while "productive sectors have been disorganised and governments looted the public sector, while the worst is the looting of resources of the public sector by private businesses and corporations of strategic importance were sold out."
Tsipras also said that the real discussion on the budget "does not take place in Parliament, but took place in London with the representatives of the markets that we must appease."
He also spoke of "a state of unbelievable monetary terrorism and restricitve measures that were those that led us up to here."
Tsipras concluded by saying that in the face of this unfair and deadlocked policy, "we present the leftist alternative proposal for a breakthrough for the creation of a shield of social protection and solidarity and for the positive exit from the crisis. We demand and we shall claim drastic measures for the taxation of the richer classes, for the strengthening of the social state, for dignified salaries and steady employment."
 Economy minister addresses Parliamentary debateEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Kataseli, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the state budget, spoke of a national wager to reverse the monetary derailment and for the recovery of production activity, stressing that in the event of failure "our children will not be finding jobs in 5-10 years."
Katseli added that the government's main concern in 2010 is immediate support for the market and the real economy and pointed out that this will be achieved with measures of an immediate performance that are being promoted with bills which are already being tabled in Parliament and concern the channeling of liquidity to small and medium-size businesses facing capital acquisition problems or even with the payment of debts.
She further said that the state will undertake to lift the stoppage of payments proclaimed by the previous government "for inconceivable reasons" and this concerned amounts that exceeded 900 million euros.
 Zero tolerance for lawlessness, Chrysohoidis tells ParliamentA policy of zero tolerance for all forms of lawlessness and violence, regardless of their source, was promised by Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis while addressing Parliament on Wednesday.
Speaking during the budget debate, Chrysohoidis announced a new security policy that will fight organised crime and terrorism as phenomena "that fall under the same umbrella", as well as clamping down on abuse of power by police through a new authority to investigate complaints against the police force that will ready to operate in about six weeks.
The minister went on to announce changes in police practice from January 1, such as making all police officers, including riot police, wear identification badges, stopping the use of tear gas at demonstrations and working out new plans for dealing with marches and rallies so that they do not require a heavy police presence, without changing laws on the right of citizens to congregate.
Other planned innovations are the introduction of a "neighbourhood policeman" to clamp down on urban violence from February next year and establishing "special-interest" police stations that will have "cultural mediators" selected among second-generation immigrants to the country and on-staff psychologists and social workers.
"The fossil that is called Attica Security will be abolished and we will create a new nationwide service for dealing with organised crime, hiring 100 police officers with special duties, economists, hackers and others," the minister said.
In terms of illegal migration, Chrysohoidis warned traffickers that Greece will soon cease to be an easy target and that the country's ports to Europe will be closed.
"Any immigrant in the country, whether legal or illegal, will be registered, finger-printed and his or her address noted. We must see how we can set up humane facilities for hospitality, how we can catch and unfailingly jail traffickers pending trial. We must separate those seeking asylum. We are radically changing policy on asylum and creating a new one, the best in Europe," he said.
 Turkish aircraft make overflightsFour Turkish Air Force "Fantom" aircraft flying in formation entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on Wednesday, Dec. 23 without previously submitting a flight plan and made overflights over the Greek islands of Agathonissi at 12:18, Farmakonissi at 12:19 and Fourni at 12:34.
The overflights were made at an altitude of roughly 9,000 ft.
The Turkish aircraft were identified and intercepted by Greek Air Force fighter jets.
 Report on Greek economyThe rapid worsening of monetary indexes after the middle of 2009 and the influence of successive election cycles, with the temporary uncertainty that they create due to assessed policy changes, constitute the environment in the Greek economy over the last months of 2009 and at the beginning of 2010, according to the latest report on the Greek economy by the Economic and Industrial Research Foundation (IOBE).
The taking of important decisions in the near future at local and international level regarding monetary management and their repercussions on economic activitiy, as well as the expectation of a package of policy measures on basic issues refuel uncertainty in the economic climate in Greece.
The decline in the local product is expected to escalate in the last quarter of 2009, intensifying recession in the year in its entirety as well, in the region of 1.5 percent.
However, the report notes that the budget's goal of decreasing the deficit by about 4 percentage points as a percentage of GDP is ambitious, but not unattainable.
 Bank of Greece Interim Financial Stability reportThe key challenge facing macroeconomic policy at this time is managing to reverse unfavourable market sentiment toward Greece, according to the Bank of Greece Interim Financial Stability report published on Wednesday.
The report notes that the ability of the domestic economy to keep pace with, and exploit the opportunities offered by, the incipient global economic recovery, as it takes hold, will depend crucially on the speed at which fiscal imbalances are corrected and the confidence of households, business firms, markets and the international community in the country's fiscal outlook and growth potential is restored. Success with restoring confidence will also determine the ability of the domestic financial system to maintain, also in the future, the remarkable resilience it has exhibited even in the most difficult periods of the global crisis.
Unlike in many other countries, the causes of the Greek economy's problems do not originate from the banking sector or its linkages with the global financial system. The central bank's report admits that the key aggregates of the Greek banking sector have remained fundamentally sound and do not per se pose risks to financial stability. However, the continuing volatility of international markets and second-round effects from domestic economic developments call for vigilance.
The report forecasts continued difficulties for borrowers in 2010, during household incomes will be at increased risk. The financial condition of households and their ability to service their debts is expected to worsen, especially for those that have over-borrowed, because their real available income will grow at a smaller rate than in 2009 due to an increase in the taxation burden and the possibility of a continued decline in employment.
These pressures may make certain groups of households unable to meet their debt repayments but the loans to such groups are small in comparison with total bank loans to households, which approach 119 billion euros.
As a result of the worsened financial situation of firms and households, the non-performing loans to total loans ratio (NPL ratio) rose to 7.2% in September 2009, although the pace of increase decelerated during the year (second quarter 2009: 6.8%, first quarter 2009: 6%, December 2008: 5%). The increase in NPL ratios was broadly-based and affected all loan categories. The coverage ratio (i.e. accumulated provisions over NPLs) also fell visibly. Against this background, it becomes imperative that banks increase provisioning and pursue prudent profit distribution and bonus policies, the report said.
 Proposed tax reforms posted on InternetThe government's proposals for changing Greece's tax system were posted on the Internet on Wednesday, alongside questions asking tax-payers their opinion on the measures proposed. The changes suggested concern all areas of taxation law, from that on real estate property and individual incomes to that of businesses and legal entities. Among others, the public is asked to give an opinion on taxes linked to environmental policy goals and decentralised taxes paid to local government.
In addition to the introduction of a single, progressive tax scale linked to inflation for all categories of income, the government asks the public its opinion on deducting receipts for goods and services from taxable income, tax deductions for certain categories of spending, taxation of dividends at the same rate as personal income, and abolishing certain categories of tax exemptions and relief.
Another question posed to the public is whether it agrees with establishing a minimum assumed income for the self-employed, taxation of surplus value on short-term stock market transactions, and a new system for calculating the income of the self-employed, based on their books.
On taxation of property, the government proposes replacing the current uniform tax with a tax on larger properties, taxing property economically exploited by the Church and charities, restoring inheritance and parental gift taxes and taxing property owned by offshore companies.
In terms of taxing businesses and legal entities, the government suggests a different taxation rate for retained and distributed profits and seeks feedback on which of the existing categories of tax exemption or relief should be abolished. It also proposed a review of the special tax regime for rent earned by Church institutions and charities.
Finally, it outlines a series of proposals for tackling tax evasion that include a more detailed record of existing assets on tax statements, the use of bank accounts to which tax services have access for all commercial transactions above a certain amount, and additional taxes on transactions with offshore companies, among others.
Other ideas, designed to cut costs for tax offices, are a switch to using only electronic tax statements for all tax-payers and sending pre-completed tax statements to those with income derived exclusively from salaried employment, as well as extending the range of electronic transactions available between the public and tax offices.
 Labour minister on OTELabour and Social Solidarity Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Wednesday that "the voluntary withdrawal being organised by the board of OTE (the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) is contrary to the policy defined by the government."
Loverdos stressed that the act in question is burdensome for the country's social security system and disastrous in relation to the message it is sending to the Greek society, the European Union and international organisations.
"Speaking in practical terms, this voluntary withdrawal will not take place," the minister added.
 Stocks ease 0.25 pct on WednesdayStocks ended 0.25 percent down at close of trade on the Athens bourse on Wednesday, with the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange falling to 2,207.94 points and turnover at 129.8 million euros.
Most sectors moved downward, with Personal & Household (1.41 pct), Financial Services (0.97 pct) and Travel & Leisure (0.76 pct) posting the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Foods & Beverages (-4.29 pct), Health (-1.77 pct) and Insurance (-1.52 pct) were the biggest losers.
The FTSE 20 index was up 0.03 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.01 pct and the FTSE 80 index dropped by 0.51 pct. Decliners led advancers by 88 to 84, while another 55 issues were unchanged.
Trading will resume on Monday, Dec. 28 after the Christmas Holidays.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.17%
Personal & Household: +1.41%
Raw Materials: -1.47%
Travel & Leisure: +0.76%
Food & Beverages: -4.29%
Financial Services: +0.97%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 8.25
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.80
HBC Coca Cola: 15.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.24
National Bank of Greece: 18.45
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.00
Bank of Piraeus: 8.20
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a samll discount of 0.18 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 35.989 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,779 contracts, worth 27.474 million euros, with 21,332 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,094 contracts worth 8.515 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,449) followed by Alpha Bank (1,529), Atebank (611), Bank of Pireaus (570), Intracom (456), Eurobank (411) and OTE (374).
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 248 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 5.74 pct and the German Bund 3.26 pct. Turnover was 300 billion euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.43 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.439
Pound sterling 0.901
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 10.534
Japanese yen 132.0
Swiss franc 1.501
Norwegian kroner 8.419
Canadian dollar 1.510
Australian dollar 1.64
 Christmas carols for the national defense ministry leadershipThe choir of the Athens Conservatory, the members of a Cretan association and the choir and band of the Armed Forces sang Christmas carols for the political and military leadership of the national defense ministry on Wednesday.
National Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos wished that the New Year will be peaceful, productive and safe and also a step closer to the materialization of the goals set by the ministry.
Alternate National Defense Minister Panos Beglitis wished health and strength, pointing out that 2010 will be a difficult year. He expressed optimism that the New Year will be productive for the benefit of national defense and the country's interests.
 Investigation into the death of industrialist in GreeceKostas Karelias, 65, major shareholder of one of the largest tobacco companies in the country, was found dead on Wednesday morning, his body floating in the sea off the marina of the southern city of Kalamata where his yacht "Ioanna" was docked.
His body was discovered by marina workers who notified the Port Authority.
He was the vice-president of the Kalamata-based "Karelia" tobacco company, one of the oldest and largest cigarette manufacturers and exporters in Greece.
Authorities have ruled out the likelihood of a crime, while an autopsy will be carried out to determine the exact causes of his death. A police investigation is underway in the car and the yacht of the deceased.
 Third victim targeted by 'black jeep' shooter in AthensAn Attica Police investigation continued on Wednesday for the arrest of an unidentified individual responsible for three unprovoked shootings in the past two days in the greater Athens area.
The latest victim of the shooter was a 47-year-old woman, who was shot at and injured at 10:00 pm on Tuesday in the residential district of Kolonos.
According to the testimony of the victim, who is hospitalized, she was on the sidewalk when a black jeep pulled up next to her and an unidentified man opened fire injuring her in the abdomen.
Two other similar incidents took place on Monday night in the districts of Votaniko and Moschato, targeting a young Bulgarian cyclist who was injured in the right wrist and a 57-year-old local man injured in the abdomen.
In all three incidents, the shots were fired from inside a black jeep with tinted windows. According to one testimony, two or three people were inside the vehicle when the shootings took place. However, police maintain that the shooter is probably a loner with psychological problems who chose his victims randomly.
A police manhunt is underway for his arrest.
 Teen involved in Evosmos incident to appear before examining judgeA 19-year-old arrested in the district of Evosmos in Thessaloniki in the early morning hours of Tuesday will appear before an examining judge on Thursday facing charges for material damage and possession of explosives.
The suspect and a number of unidentified individuals, who escaped arrest, allegedly attempted to attack the offices of ARIS FC fans and while fleeing the scene, after being spotted by local residents, they caused damages to a total of nine private cars parked in the area.
Police found and seized homemade fire bombs, gas canisters and axes abandoned in the area by the assailants.
 Policeman suspended after punching civilianA policeman serving with an emergency response unit was suspended from duty on Wednesday after he punched the owner of a shop in central Athens, and caused serious damage on the premises, during a personal dispute.
The policeman was off-duty at the time of the incident.
The shop owner filed an official complaint against him, based on which he was suspended from duty until a formal internal inquiry has been completed.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 4-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 20C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 11C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceMoody's downgrading of Greece's credit rating from A1 to A2, taxation and Tuesday's Inner Cabinet meeting on migration issues were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The prime minister 'on the right of the Lord' - Inner Cabinet meeting broadcast live on TV once again, with the attendance of the Archbishop".
APOGEVMATINI: "Reduction of taxation with (purchase, services) receipts - Finance ministry urges public to collect receipts" in effort to clamp down on tax evasion.
AVGHI: "Social security reform: Gift to the employers".
AVRIANI: "Right of vote to immigrants, and Greek nationality to their children".
CHORA: "Labor ministry puts 16 changes on the table for the social security system - End to voluntary early retirement".
ELEFTHEROS: "How George (prime minister Papandreou) averted Loverdos' (labor minister) resignation".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Window for surcharge on benefits - 8,000 military officers exempted from the cutback in benefits and their additional taxation".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Bring receipts to be eligible for the tax deduction - Which receipts will be valid to be clarified after the dialogue".
ESTIA: "The taxes we paid in 2009 - More ahead for 2010".
ETHNOS: "Collect as many receipts as you can - Message from finance minister for the 2010 tax deductions".
IMERISSIA: "Contributions in accordance with the turnover".
KATHIMERINI: "New tax to reinforce the social security Funds proposed on individuals and businesses".
LOGOS: "New tax to reinforce the social security Funds".
NAFTEMPORIKI: «'Velvet' downgrading, with small grace period".
NIKI: "Change of guard - If the streamlining is not achieved, the next government will not be a Greek one".
RIZOSPASTIS: "They're uprooting social security, invalidating its social aspect".
TA NEA: "Ask for receipt, to have tax deduction - The government's plan for 2010".
TO VIMA: "Blessed cooperation between State and Church".
VRADYNI: "Breather until March - Moody's downgraded credit rating by only one level (and not an entire category)".
We wish our readers Merry Christmas. The Bulletin will apperar on Monday, December 28.
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