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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-12-05
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Persistence for future prospects despite costPrime ̀inister Costas Karamanlis reaffirmed that a heating and housing benefit would be forthcoming towards more vulnerable social classes, speaking in Parliament on Friday during an off-the-agenda discussion on the economy and labor relations, initiated by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party.
Karamanlis warned, however, that due to the intensity and dimensions of the ongoing global financial crisis and its possible extent, it was necessary "not to exhaust the endurance of the Greek economy in the first wave of the crisis".
Karamanlis said that social transfers to the financially weaker brackets were being increased, and were slated to reach 48.7 billion euros in 2009, compared with 28.8 billion euros this year, an increase of 20 billion euros.
"We are constantly monitoring the situation and are determined to take whatever initiative is necessary," the prime minister said, noting that 'the beginning was made with two actions" funded by the National Social Cohesion Fund with 300 million euros.
The first action was the extraordinary social cohesion benefit to OGA (farmers' social security and pension fund) pensioners, to EKAS (low-pension benefit) recipients, and to the registered unemployed. He explained that the benefit differentiated with respect to the weather conditions, and amounted to 200 euros for the first zone, 150 euros for the second zone, and 100 euros for the third zone. He added that the benefit would be extended in one tranche in January and "is that which up until now we have been referring to as a heating benefit".
The second action was an extraordinary home loan benefit to all EKAS beneficiaries and OAED (Manpower Employment Organisation) subsidised unemployed who have a housing loan for a first home taken out before the beginning of January, which amounts to 500 euros and will be paid in to instalments, in January and June 2009.
Karamanlis gave a commitment to continue with new packages of actions that were being prepared "with seriousness and responsibility", adding that employment minister Fani Palli-Petralia would draft a detailed package of actions, affecting more than one million citizens, that would be funded with two billion euros from national and EU resources. Of that sum, the premier elaborated, more than one billion euros would concern targeted actions that would provide support to 200,000 unemployed, up to end-2009, for their incorporation in the job market: the first series of measures for 53,000 jobs has already commenced.
Second, the holiday bonus is doubled for 300,000 subsidized unemployed, at a budget of 70 million euros, while the unemployment benefit is being converted into an employment benefit for 60,000 beneficiaries, at a budget of 310 million euros and will commence in January. Thirdly, orientation programs will begin in January in small and very small enterprises for maintaining unemployment, with a budget of 500 million euros while, fourthly, new programs have been tendered for the placement of unemployed in employment, for the creation of opportunities for youths abandoning schools and support of young scientists, with a budget of 380 million euros.
Additional actions were also being drafted and would be announced by the economy and development ministries, Karamanlis added.
The premier stressed that the current international conjuncture had no precedent in post-war history, and "does not have, at least at this point, a visible end". He said that there was uncertainty over both its intensity and its duration, and consequently the endurance of the economy could not be exhausted in the first difficulty. That would be irresponsible and dangerous in the face of the needs that may arise, he explained, adding that "we cannot throw away that which we have achieved, with the sacrifices of the Greek people, in order to be temporarily pleasant". That, he warned, would unbearably burden the future of the entire society.
Karamanlis further stressed his government's determination to act responsibly so that the country would not fall into "the vicious circle of recession". In all instances, and especially in periods of crisis, the country requires firm steps, demands strength that overcomes the sirens of populism, in order to yield the maximum social benefit, he said.
Commenting on the opposition, Karamanlis warned that "irresponsible, superficial, demagogic positions and views in difficult times don't simply comprise political weakness, but are, in the present circumstances, dangerous for the course of the country and the integration of society. Whatever the difficulties, the temporary cost, I am determined to persist unwaveringly on the principles that guarantee security and a prospect," Karamanlis concluded.
Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addresses in parliament on Friday 5 December 2008. ANA-MPA /ALEXANDROS BELTES
 PASOK leader lambasts government policyThe global financial crisis cannot serve as an alibi for a new, unjust, redistribution of wealth, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Friday, speaking at an off-the-agenda discussion in parliament on the economy and labor relations. On the contrary, he added, serious interventions were necessary to boost incomes and jobs.
Papandreou pledged that the PASOK government would reinforce the job market control mechanisms, contrary to the tendency of contravention of the labor rights.
The main opposition leader charged that the government, a hostage of the neo-conservative policy, was unable to comprehend the causes of the crisis and the new reality that the developed world has entered, and the exits that existed for a new developmental proposal.
Greece, he said, was entering the crisis with the catastrophic choice of the fiscal audit that deprived the Greek economy of the ability of maneuvering, with constant tax raids on the just and unjust, with tolerance to the cartels that breed high prices, with mismanagement of the new CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) resources, with a counter-developmental policy of constant reductions in public investments and consistent disdain of any social protection network. "And all this you call a responsible policy," Papandreou said.
At a time when other countries were investing in innovation and green growth, Greece remained at the tail end, without a plan, and with the economy on the verge of collapse. "Do you think that we will become competitive if we squeeze the salaries further, if we make the Greek worker so insecure that he will work day and night for a piece of bread?", he asked.
PASOK on the other hand had a plan. "We will not invest in cheap labor. We will not compete with China, pushing the worker downwards. On the contrary, we will invest in quality, and that will be the comparative advantage of Greece and the Greek people. We, as the next government, will abolish the anti-labor and ant-insurance laws, the unjust regulations in the social security sector, in working hours, imposed by your government," Papandreou pledged.
Papandreou said that the election of Barack Obama as the next US President presented the opportunity for a new "New Deal" with large investments in green development. "We will fight the crisis in employment only if we put the economy into a new developmental orbit, with agreement among the social partners that will boost income and restore the social state. We will guarantee investments for our development prospects in order to consolidate a different rationale of governance," he said.
The PASOK leader warned that "we don't have even one day to lose, we commit ourselves to boost the real economy and the SMEs, with clear commitments on the part of the banks, something that the government failed to do", adding that his party has already proposed the exemption of green public investments from the Stability Pact, noting that those proposals have also been adopted by the European socialists.
Caption: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou speaks in parliament on Friday 5 December 2008. ANA-MPA/ALEXANDROS BELTES
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