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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-12-21

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Budget debate enters fifth and final day in Parliament
  • [02] Voulgarakis visits "Ark of the World" shelter

  • [01] Budget debate enters fifth and final day in Parliament

    Speaking in Parliament on the fifth and final day of the debate on the 2007 budget, Merchant Marine Minister Yiannis Kefaloyiannis on Thursday defended government efforts to open selected services in Greece's two major ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, to the private sector.

    At the same time, he denied that the plan was a privatisation, pointing out that 75 percent would remain in the state sector.

    Justifying the move, Kefaloyiannis pointed out that the payroll accounted for 75% of running costs for the Piraeus Port Organisation.

    "There was a risk that, at the end of our four-year term, we would hand over a new, bankrupt "Olympic Airways", where 100% of the costs would be the payroll," he added.

    He also claimed that there were distortions and excesses in the present system, with a few privileged employees earning up to 12,000 euros a month, or the payment of 2.5 million euros in overtime to 70 individuals for the maintenance of 12 vessels that were not currently sea-worthy.

    According to main opposition PASOK MP Gerassimos Arsenis, meanwhile, a major part of the middle classes with an annual income between 18,000-30,000 euros, numbering some 1.5 million families, will be financially "crushed" by the 2007 budget proposed by the government.

    "Economic and social development is never achieved with a hibernating middle class," he added.

    The MP and former PASOK minister emphasised the differential treatment of income from salaried employment and income generated by profits from capital, pointing out that tax paid by private individuals in the last year had increased 6.8% to reach 620 million euros, whereas businesses paid just 120 million euros or 2.7% more. At the same time, GDP had risen by 7.1% and state spending by 6.2%, while income tax by only 4% and indirect taxes, which most heavily burdened those on low incomes, by 8.8 %.

    The debate will end with a roll-call vote on the budget at midnight, following speeches by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the heads of the political parties.

    [02] Voulgarakis visits "Ark of the World" shelter

    Culture Minister George Voulgarakis on Thursday visited the "Ark of World" children's shelter set up in the run-down Athens district of Kolonos by 35-year-old Father Antonios, an Orthodox priest that for the last 10 years has been providing support and assistance to the children of immigrants and one-parent families.

    The nearly 200 children at the 'Ark', whose families mostly originate from Asia and Africa, are offered three meals a day, taught Greek and prepared for Greek school before they return home at night.

    Assisted by a group of volunteers that include teachers, paediatricians, psychiatrists, cooks and many ordinary people, the 'Ark of the World' and Father Antonios try to offer the children necessities but, as he stresses, "without institutionalising them".

    The 'Ark' was singled out in 2004 by a European Observatory as the best example of action against racism and xenophobia, given that Father Antonios accepts all children regardless of religion.

    During his visit, the minister handed out gifts to the children, tickets for performances at the National Theatre, National Opera and the Porta Theatre and a symbolic sum of money to cover the needs of the 'Ark'.

    He also heard a request by Father Antonios seeking the ministry's support for a fund-raising concert, whose proceeds will be added to sum collected by an ERT Telethon in order to build a suitable building for the 'Ark', which is currently housed in a former coffee shop in Kolonos.


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