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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-09-14

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 14/09/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • ND leader outlines major differences with ruling party
  • Gov't may reduce taxes in 1999, economy minister says
  • Papantoniou calls ND's no-tax pledge irresponsible
  • PM calls on ruling PASOK members to rally ahead of local elections
  • Tsohatzopoulos says Greece-Israel military dialogue imminent
  • Greece takes first delivery of Atacams missiles
  • SYN leader outlines party's policies
  • Tsovolas warns of 'austerity without end'
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

ND leader outlines major differences with ruling party

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Saturday outlined the positions of his party on all major issues and answered Prime Minister Costas Simitis' comments that ND cannot provide an alternative to the PASOK government.

In his traditional annual address at the 63rd Thessaloniki Trade Fair, Mr. Karamanlis underlined both ideological and political differences between the ruling PASOK and ND, arguing that his party better represents the political centre.

Mr. Karamanlis said the differences focused on issues of economic policy and the public sector, while he strongly disagreed with what he called the government's appeasing policies toward Turkey.

Mr. Karamanlis proposed the creation of a new type of state apparatus, which would be limited, tidy and flexible.

He said his party was capable of forging ahead toward wide privatisations and a decrease of wasteful public spending.

The opposition leader said that the spearhead for development should be private enterprise, while maintaining low taxes and a welfare state able to provide high quality health services, education and welfare.

The ND leader proposed a "new beginning" based on a 10-point programme.

He said that the annual growth rate of the economy must always overtake the European Union average by 2 per cent so as for Greece to cover the distance of the growth levels with the other member-states.

He further called for the immediate privatisation of Olympic Airways, the Urban Transport Organisation (OSA/OASA), a halt to the operation of the Organisation for the Rehabilitation of Ailing Enterprises (OAE) and the privatisation of all banks except t he Bank of Greece and the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE).

He also proposed the restructuring of public services through the evaluation of all state employees, the reinforcement of transparency of transactions by the state.

He proposed what he called a genuine decentralisation of public services and the abolition of the law prescribing forced unifications of communities into townships, as well as the provision of resources for local communities.

Mr. Karamanlis also proposed the establishment of a stable tax system, which will introduce a gradual taxation rate decrease, the doubling of the non-taxable income, the abolition of property tax (FAP) and objective taxation criteria for real estate.

For the protection of the small and medium size enterprises, he proposed the abolition of the objective taxation criteria system, protection from unfair competition, measures to facilitate easy and fast access to the financial and credit system, institu ting measures to encourage technological restructuring, and special support for trade and tourist businesses.

He further proposed measures for the revitalisation of rural regions with a decrease in fuel and electricity prices, a decrease of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on farming equipment from today's 18 per cent to 8 per cent, the restructuring of ATE and the Gr eek Agricultural Insurance Organisation (ELGA), and for pressure to be applied for more benefits for farmers through the EU and support of Greece's national trade mark agricultural products.

Mr. Karamanlis stressed the need for the restructuring of the educational system, following national dialogue, a change of the legal system so as to allow for the establishment of private universities, support of better school facilities and staff.

Referring to unemployment, Mr. Karamanlis said broader and longer in duration unemployment benefits should be given, as well as full health insurance coverage and maternal allowances for families living below the subsistance level.

Mr. Karamanlis accussed the prime minister as "the person responsible for maintaing a wasteful and inflexible state apparatus".

He also accused Mr. Simitis for "heavy taxation, timidity in privatising state owned enterprises, inability to protect citizens from crime and lacking in interest for private enterprise".

He finally, expressed his doubt wheather Greece would meet the criteria of convergance to the Economic Monetary Union (EMU) in 1998, as well as the country's accession to EMU in 2001.

Gov't response : Responding to Mr. Karamanlis' speach, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas accused him of "ideological and political poverty and of a conscious effort to mislead the citizens".

He also charged him of a "subjective inability to recognise the huge improvement of the country's position and the workers' standard of living, which was ruined during the 1990-1993 period".

He added that the tax cuts Mr. Karamanlis proposed would cost 350 billion drachmas, setting the country back a year on its course toward the EMU and thus prove Greece unreliable during an uncertain and critical period.

Gov't may reduce taxes in 1999, economy minister says

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that the government may lower taxes in 1999 in order to help inflation to fall, in turn easing entry into European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

"The possibility of lowering taxes is being examined. If there is room for a reduction in 1999 this will happen so that inflation may fall and the country enter EMU," Mr. Papantoniou told reporters.

The minister was apparently referring to indirect taxes on consumer goods.

The government has set January 1, 2001 as the latest entry date into the European Union's single currency, but is having trouble meeting convergence criteria on inflation.

Consumer price inflation was 5.0 percent in August, slightly down on 5.1 percent in July. Combined with other economic criteria, the rate needs to drop to roughly 2.4 percent before Greece can join EMU.

The inflation rate rose after the drachma's devaluation on March 14, a move accompanying the currency's entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism on the same day. The consumer price index has since only

Papantoniou calls ND's no-tax pledge irresponsible

Replying to questions, Mr. Papantoniou accused the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party of acting irresponsibly in promising the abolition of some taxes and reduction of others if elected to power in 2000, when national elections are due.

He rejected charges by ND leader Costas Karamanlis that the current government had hurt the public by introducing 62 new taxes since 1996 totalling 2.5 trillion drachmas.

"The only ones who shouldered the burden of the new taxes were the monied, the stock exchange, that is companies and large real estate (owners), thus leading to a more equitable tax system," Mr. Papantoniou said.

PM calls on ruling PASOK members to rally ahead of local elections

Prime Minister and PASOK President Costas Simitis on Saturday called on all the ruling party members and friends to rally ahead of next month's local elections, saying they had a "multiple signifigance" for the future of local government institutions.

Addressing a PASOK National Council meeting, the premier added that the elections signalled a "confrontation between those who worked for the creation of local government institutions and dared to go through important reforms and those who wanted local administration subjugated to the central government".

Mr. Simitis said that the ruling party had elaborated a policy towards a "flexible and advanced state apparatus", adding that, on prefectural level, there was a wide ranging programme of support, the establishment of finacial independence and the safegu arding of the employees in local administrations.

The prime minister recognised the upcoming elections had a political message as well, "as every other such confrontation" and stressed that PASOK would evaluate the message.

However, he noted that PASOK's accomplishments would be judged at the 2000 general elections, stressing that the government's policies would be maintained. He added that these policies include the continuation of the economic and growth policies and res tructuring of the state, continuation of the existing foreign affairs policies, accomplishing the aim of a better quality of life for all Greeks and the development of a new social state with policies aiming specific social groups.

Tsohatzopoulos says Greece-Israel military dialogue imminent

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Saturday said that a military dialogue between Greece and Israel was imminent announcing at the same time that his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Mordechai was expected in Athens, at Mr. Tsohatzopoulos' invitation, for talks within the next two months.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the "98 Athens Summit" on peace and development, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also said that he expressed to former Israeli prime minister Shimon Perez Greece's concern over the Israel-Turkey defence pact.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos explained to Mr. Perez, who was in Athens to attend the summit, the reasons for which Israel should take into consideration the fact that high technology armaments possessed by it may be used by third countries resulting to dangerous reactions in the region.

Addressing on Saturday the "Athens' Summit" meeting the Greek Defence Minister said that general interest focuses on Central Asia countries, where the "heart of energy resources lies".

"The new world balance cannot ignore the need of creating international organisations aiming at the region's security," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

"Greece, in cooperation with other Balkan countries proposes the creation of regional institutions of collective security and a relevant proposal was formulated by Baltic countries," he added.

Greece takes first delivery of Atacams missiles

Greece yesterday took delivery of five ground-to-ground Atacams missiles from the United States, the first consignment of a 19-billion drachma order for 40 of the missiles.

The state-of-the-art system for use by the army has a range of 165 kilometres and is launched from mobile M270 units. Aim and launch are carried out electronically.

The all-weather missiles are designed to hit high-priority targets including administrative and control installations and munitions depots.

The missiles were delivered at the SEDES military airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

A delivery ceremony was attended by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and the head of Greek army staff, Lieutenant General Manoussos Parayoudakis.

"The government's goal" is a strong, modern army and an all-powerful deterrent and defence force for the country's sovereign rights, which will also support Greece's peaceful and creative role in the wider geopolitical region," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

SYN leader outlines party's policies

Coalition of the Left and Progress party (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos last night said that the three axes of his party's policy were its reinforcement through the failure of "the government's centre- right policies", its success in next month's local elections and its increased presence in the European Parliament.

Addressing a meeting during the party's festival in central Athens, Mr. Constantopoulos argued that the following two years would be crucial for the nation.

"The factors that would determine all future developments are the country's course towards European integration and its repercussions, social injustices, the course of Greece's national issues, particularly the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations and the country's unstable political and party system," Mr. Constantopoulos said.

Tsovolas warns of 'austerity without end'

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) President Dimitris Tsovolas yesterday said an "austerity without end" was waiting Greece after its entry to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), due to the fact that "Europe's political unification has not yet been ach ieved".

Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of his visit to the 63rd Thessaloniki International Fair, Mr. Tsovolas also said that Greece would be able to enter the European single currency on economic criteria.

The government has set January 1, 2001 as the latest entry date into the European Union's single currency.

Mr. Tsovolas reiterated his party's opposition to the government's economic policy saying it was "neo-liberal".

Outlining his party's proposals, he said DHKKI was EU orientated and aimed at boosting the people's standard of living, increasing productivity, support employment, the country's growth and safeguarding the welfare state.

Greek First Division soccer results

Panelefsiniakos AEK 0-0 Veria Olympiakos 0-3 Panathinaikos Ethnikos Asteras 4-1 OFI Iraklion Xanthi 4-2 Aris Salonika Ionikos Piraeus 1-1 Ethnikos Piraeus Proodeftiki 0- 2 Panionios Apollon Athens 4-2 Kavala PAOK 1-1 Paniliakos Pyrgos Iraklis Thessaloniki 2-1 Standings/points: Panathinaikos 9, Olympiakos, AEK Athens, Aris, Ionikos Piraeus 7, Iraklis, Paniliakos, OFI 6, Xanthi, Kavala 4.

WEATHER

Western Greece will see cloudy weather and scattered showers today later turning to gales or storms. Same phenomena will gradually spread to central and northern Greece. Partly cloudy in rest of the country. Athens, sunny to partly cloudy with temperatures from 20-30C. Thessaloniki will be cloudy with rain later in the day and temperatures from 18-26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 289.743 British pound 487.667 Japanese yen (100) 221.464 French franc 51.118 German mark 171.418 Italian lira (100) 17.361 Irish Punt 429.040 Belgian franc 8.310 Finnish mark 56.294 Dutch guilder 152.004 Danish kr. 44.987 Austrian sch. 24.369 Spanish peseta 2.020 Swedish kr. 36.480 Norwegian kr. 38.331 Swiss franc 208.925 Port. Escudo 1.673 Aus. dollar 173.595 Can. dollar 191.654 Cyprus pound 578.118

(C.E.)


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