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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-01-30

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Economy, social securities ministers refer to social security reform prospects
  • [02] Papandreou accuses gov't of misleading farmers
  • [03] Karamanlis lauds 'Irish model', outlines strategic aim for development, greater prosperity

  • [01] Economy, social securities ministers refer to social security reform prospects

    Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis reiterated in a published interview over the weekend that the government will not take emergency measures amid the spectre of a possible budget deficit.

    Moreover, he stressed that the target for 2005 is to fully execute the state budget with the measures already announced.

    "This year is crucial as far as revenues and expenditures are concerned ... the tax base must be expanded through an intensification of tax inspections and by controlling spending," he said.

    In reference to the vital social security issue, Alogoskoufis emphasised that the major problem of guaranteed funding of the system in coming years has still not been solved.

    "This isn't an emergency problem; it doesn't have to be solved tomorrow, but it absolutely affects the country's fiscal prospects and will have to be discussed at some point," he was quoted as saying by the Sunday edition of "Eleftheros Typos".

    In another interview by a top minister that focuses on social security reform, Labour and Social Securities Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos expressed his support for the establishment of a national "committee of technocrats" to propose reforms to the country's creaky system.

    Panayiotopoulos said any such committee would be established in cooperation with social partners and with a spirit of consensus, but without "pre-determined decisions, shock solutions or populist rhetoric."

    "We should all remember, both the political world and the trade unions, that public opinion will not judged us with ideological criteria and political stereotypes of the 1980s, but with the complex numbers of the 21st century".

    Panayiotopoulos' interview was published in the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia".

    [02] Papandreou accuses gov't of misleading farmers

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Saturday spoke to supporters in the central city of Larissa, the hub of ongoing farmers' protests against low crop prices, mainly subsidised cotton, and shrinking agricultural incomes.

    He began his comments by sharply attacking the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, saying the latter reneged on pre-election promises and used "cheap populism" to win over a majority of rural votes in the previous election. He also accused the government of illegally allowing thousands of hectares of land to tacked on to cotton cultivation.

    In pointing to solutions for the impasses in the country's farm sector, Papandreou referred to new crop cultivations, ones away from the reasoning and framework of subsidies -- which he said PASOK has guaranteed until 2013 -- farmers' vocational training, and an emphasis on agri-business and packaging, as well as improving the operation of various cooperatives, upgraded scientific support and even a branching out into eco-tourism.

    Newspaper interview

    Meanwhile, in an interview published in the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Ethnos", Papandreou dismissed mostly internal criticism that he is establishing a "leader-based" party, while stressing that he is "preparing for a future government".

    In view of the main opposition party's congress next month -- a much-anticipated event for local political analysts -- Papandreou said he expects a new "framework of positions and a vision for Greece" to be produced, along with a new structure for the party itself.

    Noting that PASOK has up until today been a "leader-based" political formation, he nevertheless expressed his opposition for such a model because "it nurtured (inner party) captains and smaller groupings".

    The one-time foreign minister added that criticism against him, namely, that he is attempting to graft an American-style party structure on PASOK, is historically baseless. Conversely, he said Scandinavian political models are particularly successful.

    "I do not want to take cover behind creeds, frightened reactions or other's oversights ... it's time for labels (of affiliation) to cease at PASOK, and for us to return to politics," he said.

    Finally, as far as internal party politics are concerned, he said a new leadership team to guide PASOK will arise through meritocracy and that he will not adopt any list of names.

    In repeating his criticism of the government, Papandreou accused it of "yielding power without direction" and of "lacking any social dimension".

    Papandreou's father, the late three-time premier Andreas Papandreou, founded the party in 1974, whereas Costas Simitis succeeded an ailing Andreas Papandreou in January 1996. The latter won two elections in 1996 and 2000. In January 2004 Simitis announced that he would not stand for the upcoming elections (March 2004) and tapped the younger Papandreou for his successor

    Gov't

    In a later response to Papandreou's comments, Minister of State Thodoris Roussopoulos simply remarked that "if the president of PASOK is readying to govern, it would be good for him not to forget that reliability and trust are built on the basis of truth and responsibility. Albeit difficult, this is the only path available."

    [03] Karamanlis lauds 'Irish model', outlines strategic aim for development, greater prosperity

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed his confidence that the east Mediterranean nation of 11 million will win the "wager" for development and prosperity, in statements featured in a special edition of the "Economist" that focuses on the so-called "Irish Miracle" -- namely, the economic boom in the Republic of Ireland since its European Union accession and especially in the last 15 years.

    Only days after a recent opinion poll gave Karamanlis a significant lead over his main opposition rival George Papandreou on the question of "more suitable" for the premiership and on his leadership profile, the Greek prime minister said his government's goal is none other than to transform Greece into the primary economic hub of the entire region, a Balkan or even Mediterranean "tiger", as he said, using a term regularly applied to the super-charged economies of the Asia-Pacific rim.

    Better quality, effectiveness and competitiveness in the economic sector was another parallel theme that Karamanlis cited, saying he's also confident that Greece will meet the challenge.

    In referring to the "Irish miracle" and the extent to which Greece can follow that European island-nation's model of stunning economic growth and development -- particularly in terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and hi-tech multinationals -- Karamanlis said a policy of immediate market deregulation, especially in the energy sector, should provide the first investment "jumpstart" in this direction. Other reforms, he added, to attract FDIs will come in the legal and institutional framework governing business investment, along with a firm decision to cut corporate and business tax rates over the next three-year period.

    The 48-year-old Karamanlis also cited the government's decision to proceed with the creation of "innovative cities" outside the congested and economically saturated greater Athens area, again, similar to the model employed in Ireland. Moreover, he cited the "Irish model's" straightforward organisational parameters and the fact that it fully exploited the potential offered by EU membership as other yardsticks for accelerating Greece's growth.

    While acknowledging the fact that economic conditions are difficult at present, Karamanlis nevertheless said the challenge is both a personal and collective incentive for Greeks.

    His entire interview was carried in the Greek-language edition of the Economist magazine, which was a supplement in the Saturday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini".

    (Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis speaks at an Economist group-sponsored conference last May in Athens)


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