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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-27

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Positive ECOFIN assessment satisfies FinMin
  • [02] Gov't eyes more reforms in research, post-grad studies

  • [01] Positive ECOFIN assessment satisfies FinMin

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction over the positive assessment, by the ECOFIN group, of Greece's Stability and Growth programme for the period 2006-2009.

    Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the Greek minister said the government was continuing its efforts towards fiscal adjustment and structural reforms, while commenting on the country's public finances, said the adjustment programme continued with structural measures of permanent nature aiming to achieve a medium-term target of balanced or surplus budgets. Alogoskoufis said this target would be achieved by 2012 at the latest, while the public debt would continue falling thanks to high growth rates, rising primary surpluses, reduced adjustments between deficit and debt and higher proceeds from privatisations.

    He said implementation of a reform programme could lead to an acceleration of productivity growth rates, higher employment and lower unemployment in the country. Alogoskoufis also noted that this policy was already bearing fruit, since the general government deficit fell by around five percentage points of GDP during the last two years, mainly through a policy of containing spending and improving tax efficiency. Alogoskoufis said the country's fiscal deficit was expected at 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006, in full accordance with an ECOFIN decision taken on Feb. 17, 2005.

    The government has ensured economic growth with the implementation of a reform strategy and a real growth rate of 3.7 pct in 2005 and 4.3 pct in 2006. "This performance remains one of the highest in the Eurozone," Alogoskoufis said.

    He also referred to changes in the quality dimensions of economic growth, with private investments and lower corporate taxes raising their share in economic growth, while he cited a new investment law and legislation on joint ventures between public and private sector companies as additional supporters.

    Alogoskoufis said unemployment fell to 11.3 pct of the workforce in early 2004 to 8.3 pct in the third quarter of 2006 and noted that 250,000 new job positions were created, mainly in the private sector.

    Commenting on the pension system, the Greek FinMin said a social and political dialogue over the issue was continuing with the aim of creating the necessary conditions to promote a pension reform with social and political consensus.

    Alogoskoufis said the government based its economic policy on two pylons: the first to achieve a fiscal adjustment aimed to end excessive deficit procedures by 2006 and the second to promote structural reforms to boost economic growth through private investments, exports and higher employment.

    The Greek minister said the ministry has sent all date related with an upwards revision of the country's Gross Domestic Product to Eurostat last month and that the EU executive's statistics agency was currently evaluating these figures.

    [02] Gov't eyes more reforms in research, post-grad studies

    The government wants to bring further legislation on two education-related issues -- research and post-graduate studies -- before the end of its four-year term, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos revealed on Tuesday.

    He stressed that these issues were very important for improving education in Greece, while announcing that 420 million euros will be made available for research from the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF).

    Regarding the draft framework law on higher education that began to be discussed by a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Roussopoulos implied that the government was open to amendments proposed by the academic community.

    "The government came to the process with a very good attitude, with dialogue that yielded results and I am sure that the education minister will operate along the same lines during the rest of the Parliamentary procedure," he told reporters in response to questions.

    Asked about possible changes designed to make high schools - known in Greece as lyceums - less dominated by and dependent on university entrance examinations, Roussopoulos confirmed that government policy was moving in this direction.

    Pointing to past statements by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis about "better-quality lyceums", he noted that the government had promised changes to improve both tertiary and secondary education.

    The abolition of university-entrance exams in the second year of the three-year lyceum was a step toward autonomy for lyceums, which would acquire their own worth, he added.

    "The next step will be to make lyceums completely autonomous of the nationwide university exam process," he said, while pointing out that any changes would be announced well beforehand, at least three years in advance, so that students and their families would not be taken by surprise.

    He ruled out the complete abolition of university-entrance exams, however, pointing out that universities set a limit on the number of students they will accept and that the minimum pass of 50 percent (overall points in the system) had been accepted as a measure for assessing the quality of education.

    "We cannot accept that everyone will get into university, regardless of the marks they achieved in lyceum. There must be some form of examination procedure, because there is no university anywhere in the world that does not ask candidate students to fulfil certain requirements," the spokesman added.

    The changes to secondary education would be carried out after the next elections and following lengthy dialogue, "since we believe that we will be in government again," Roussopoulos clarified.

    The law on assessing universities that has already been passed, the framework bill for higher education now in Parliament and pending draft legislation on research and post-graduate studies will be the "four elements that will strengthen and give a completely different prospect to Greek universities," the spokesman concluded.


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