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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-12-05

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM analyses Greek economy at Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce conference

  • [01] PM analyses Greek economy at Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce conference

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the 17th annual conference of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce on the theme of "The hour of the Greek economy" on Tuesday, saying that the Greek economy has broken away from the fictitious reality, it has obtained goals and a strategy, as well as a new course. "The reformist strategy is continuing steadfastly, undeviatingly and intensively. It is continuing with the demand and support of society," Karamanlis said. "We are not yet in the state we want and that the country is entitled to. Continuity and consistency is necessary with the reforms we have started, what is necessary is an increasing rapid pace," he added. Karamanlis then referred to the paramount reform in economic policy, tax reform, that is now entering its second phase.

    He explained that the tax-free margin is increasing, tax percentages are decreasing for private persons and social care measures are being enacted, while a considerable simplification of the accounting books and data code is anticipated at the same time so as to curb bureaucratic procedures and reduce the cost they entail. He further noted that the continuation of privatisations is a basic element in the new economy.

    The prime minister criticised previous governments for the state of the economy that they delivered and underlined the results of the reformist strategy scheduled by the New Democracy government.

    Karamanlis stressed that the country's growth rate is one of the highest in the eurozone, reaching 4.4 percent in the third quarter of the current year. After a five-year downward trend, tourism is registering a considerable increase in arrivals that amounted to 7 percent last year. Despite the unfavourable impact from international oil prices, inflation dropped to below 3 percent. Direct foreign investments increased almost tenfold during the first eight months compared to last year, exceeding 3.5 billion euros, while total investments have increased by more than 10 percent during the first half of the year.

    The prime minister also made special reference to Greek-U.S. economic and trade cooperation, stressing that in 2005 imports from the United States totalled one billion euros, while exports reached 700 million, adding that despite the fact that there is a deficit of 300 million euros in the trade balance the American market provides great opportunities for Greek businesses.

    Cabinet approves stiffer penalties under new Traffic Code

    The government on Tuesday approved the revised traffic code introducing stiffer penalties for offenders proposed by Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis, during a meeting of the inner Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Liapis said that the aim of the new traffic code was to act as a deterrent in the hope of preventing many of the fatal accidents that put Greece at the top of the league for per capita road accident deaths in the European Union, while at the same time creating a mentality that favoured safe driving habits.

    To this end, the minister noted that the fines for dangerous driving would increase but speed limits would also be slightly raised.

    He pointed out that the last revision of the traffic code was carried out in 1999 and that the government's present proposals were developed by a team of experts and scientists, while they had been unveiled for public debate six months earlier.

    Liapis urged MPs to intervene and voice their opinions on this major issue, one which claims hundreds of lives on Greek roadways each year, stressing that he welcomed dialogue on his proposals.

    He also described the draft bill prepared by his ministry as a "breakthrough" and expressed hope that there would be cooperation and broader consensus with the opposition.

    Responding to reporters' questions about the sharp increase in the amount of the fines, Liapis denied that this was another method of 'milking' the public to boost government coffers.

    "That occurs when something is imposed on you against your will. No one obliges anyone to go through a red light, ignore right of way or to illegally traverse a guarded level crossing," Liapis pointed out.

    The minister also stressed that wearing a seatbelt was obligatory and that the measure was now being extended to taxis, where passengers in the front seat will be obliged to wear a seatbelt, as well as to passengers on inter-city buses.

    Asked whether the government intended to reduce high rates of VAT currently imposed on motorcycle helmets, which are treated as luxury goods for tax purposes, Liapis said that he had raised the issue with European Commissioner for transport Jacques Barrot but had not yet received any reply.

    In comments on the draft bill during Tuesday's regular press briefing, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the traffic code was not just a legal text but also a rule for life.

    He stressed that the government's goal was to protect human life more efficiently, given that Greece occupied one of the worst positions in the EU in terms of road safety.

    The spokesman said the transport ministry, following dialogue with the qualified bodies, had settled on a modern framework of dealing with traffic violations, particularly those that placed human life at risk.

    This included the decriminalisation of certain minor offences and misdemeanour-type violations, better collection of fines, an upgrade of the point system and a rationalisation of fines, he added.

    (ANA-MPA photo of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressing the 17th annual conference of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce in Athens on Tuesday night)


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