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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-22

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] FinMin says gov't to stick to economic plan
  • [02] Protests against education reforms continue

  • [01] FinMin says gov't to stick to economic plan

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday said 2007 would be a year of continuing implementation of the government's economic programme and further fiscal stabilisation.

    Addressing an event organised by the Foreign Press Association of Greece, the Greek minister said continuation of the government's policy was sought with the maximum possible political and social consensus. Alogoskoufis said 2006 was a very significant and crucial year for the economy, with progress made in fiscal adjustment, economic growth and reducing unemployment.

    &quot;This combination is not something often observed and justifies the government policy,&quot; he noted.

    Greece's effort, he added, was an example for the rest of Eurozone and was based on the extroverted nature of Greek economy and improvement in business activity. He added, however, stressed that despite favourable results so far &quot;we are still in the middle of the road. Results are satisfactory but not enough&quot;.

    He also noted that the country's fiscal deficit fell but there was still room for improvement in competitiveness and underlined there was no room for complacency or delays.

    Alogoskoufis said the government has agreed to further privatise Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and that a strategic partner was sought to allow the telecoms utility to face international competition and to have strong allies. He noted that OTE could also move forward under Greek management, saying a new meeting with privatisation consultants was scheduled this month. Moreover, Alogoskoufis stressed that nothing has changed in the government's strategy.

    Commenting on an upwards revision of GDP, Alogoskoufis said it was an obligation of all EU member-states to proceed with a GDP revision every five years. &quot;We should have performed at least one more fiscal audit,&quot; he said adding that a previous GDP revision cost around 5 billion euros in the period 1994-2006.

    &quot;The 2006 revision is under way and we will see what the cost will be. Certainly we will pay,&quot; he said. Alogoskoufis said Greece must stop to see EU as a cashier and added that the country was no longer the &quot;poor relative&quot; of the EU.

    The unemployment rate fell from 11.3 pct to 8.3 pct in the period 2004-2006, while employment added another 255,000 jobs during the same period, of which 200,000 in the private sector and 55,000 in the wider public sector, he said.

    The Greek minister said investment grew by 9.5 pct in 2006, mainly from the private sector, while foreign direct investments exceeded 4.3 billion euros. &quot;There are still major opportunities for investments in telecommunications and tourism,&quot; he noted.

    Alogoskoufis said other public sector enterprises, such as Public Power Corp. (PPC) and Athens Water and Sewerage (EYDAP) utility should operate under private sector terms to the benefit of their shareholders, while he added that several enterprises needed restructuring first and then privatisation.

    Regarding another high-profile issue, the government's aim is to ensure the long-term viability of the social insurance system, Alogoskoufis said. &quot;Major reforms cannot proceed without a wide consensus,&quot; he said and urged political parties to support the government's effort.

    The Greek minister said reform of the social insurance system would be made over the next four years and pledged that the government would speak openly of the problems and solutions to the issue.

    He said the government would not take any more tax initiatives during its current four-year term.

    Finally, he said the government aimed to sell another stake in Postal Savings Bank and underlined that the bank would continue its autonomous course.

    [02] Protests against education reforms continue

    Another protest march against the government's higher education reforms wound through downtown Athens on Thursday, the first such mobilisation staged by opposing students and professors after the draft law was made public this week.

    Protesters marched to the education ministry building and the Parliament declaring their opposition to the government-sponsored framework draft law on higher education. Unions representing primary and secondary education teachers also called a strike on Thursday in solidarity.

    In Thessaloniki, students and teachers held a protest march on the occasion of the 24-hour strike declared by the teachers' federations.

    The government's stated position of pushing through with reforms in universities - greater administrative, academic and financial transparency; altering the law on asylum; curbing the phenomenon of "eternal students"; instituting an evaluation process for faculties and research departments, changing the "one-text-book-lesson" regime etc. - has generated heated opposition, mainly amongst leftist political forces and their affiliated student groups.

    Caption: A group of students protest in Thessaloniki on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007. ANA-MPA / Megapress / G. Fotiadis.


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