|Monday, 19 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-04-17
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Reforms are the answer to country's problemsThe only substantive response to the country's problems are reforms, prime minister Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday, and accused main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou of inability to realise the real problems facing the country, recognise the true needs of the times, and stipulate his own proposal, speaking in parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy, at the PASOK leader's initiative.
Reforms were the process that "leads from hopes to result", and makes "the desired, feasible", Karamanlis said, adding that this was the only way to ensure viable development, by increasing jobs, and the only way to increase the growth dividend, achieve an increase in incomes and reduction of poverty, and attain improvement of the lives of the citizens.
Responding in particular to an accusation by Papandreou that the references to the negative international conjuncture were just "the government's alibi", Karamanlis said that the PASOK leader, in making such claims, "is not compromising the government, but his own, and doint an injustice to himself".
The premier further criticised those who backed such a position, saying "it is incomprehesible that they are ignoring the international conjuncture, it is dangerous for them to believe that the modern economies develop in a void, it is irresponsible for them to claim that the conjuncture is nothing but the government's alibi".
"The government does not need an alibi. It is others who are in one place and say they are elsewhere," he continued.
Karamanlis stressed that although the repercussions of the negative international conjuncture reach Greece as well, they were nevertheless "milder' in relation to the eurozone, and would have been "even milder if we were not facing the deficits, the debts, the weaknesses left behind (by the preceding PASOK governments), and would have been even more adverse if we had not taken the road of changes".
The premier also described as "extreme" the PASOK leadership's stance of discouraging prospective investors from considering investments in Greece and urging them to not become involved in major infrastructures and DEKO (public utilities and organisations), and threatening them that they will find themselves face to face with PASOK.
"They (PASOK) went so far as to resort to Third-World views, that have no place in European countries, and are of no value whatsoever. They say things that are not possible. It is an outburst of irresponsibility, hypocrisy and distortion of reality," Karamanlis charged.
On the reactions to the reforms being advanced by his government, Karamanlis said that they "express an easy and cost-less populism, long-standing fears and pathogenies of the past, and downward equalisation".
"We will not follow the path of misery, we will not bow to the conservatism of the accomodated, we will not compromise with inertia, stagnation, immobilisation of society and marginalisation of the country," the premier stressed, adding that "in politics, wishes are not sufficient, the real problems require effective solutions, bold policies, and substantive replies to crucial questions".
Concluding, Karamanlis highlighted the significance of the inter-state agreements signed by his government, which he said rendered Greece an international energy hub. "They contribute to peace and stability, and enhance our geo-political role," he said, referring to the Turkey-Greece natural gas pipeline, the under-water Greek-Italian pipeline, the southern European corridor, and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
And now, he added, "following the initial deliberations last June, we are entering a new substantive round of contacts on the South Stream system of pipelines".
"When PASOK was speaking of 'slaps' against Greece, we were opening up new roads for the future," Karamanlis said.
 Papandreou: 'Red line' separates PASOK from NDMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou spoke of a "red line" separating his party from the ruling New Democracy (ND) on matters of economic policy, addressing an off-the-agenda debate on the economy in parliament on Thursday initiated by himself, and submitted five proposals for the relief of bank borrowers.
Papandreou futher offered to waive his parliamentary immunity in order to face a possible lawsuit from Marfin Investment Group (MIG) vice-president Andreas Vgenopoulos, who recently announced he intended to sue Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras for slander in comments regarding MIG's acquisition, and later sale, of a 19 percent share package in OTE (National Telecommunications Organisation).
"Could it be that you are serving the market forces, whereas we the forces of the State? Are you, perhaps, neo-liberals while we are statists? These are manufactured ideologies, Mr. Karamanlis. We have one big difference, the red dividing line: How your government, and how we, intend to serve the public interest," Papandreou said.
The PASOK leader dared the government to come to a rift with the rackets preying on the foodstuffs market, the staple goods, oil and medicine, to "break" the cartel of the banks, "in which the three largest banks concentrate 65 percent of the market, based on their assets", to reduce the "unusually high concentration of stockmarket transactions in a few companies", to introduce an independent and uniform monitoring of the financial services branch, and to systematically monitor the market and introduce a framework of sanctions.
"You won't because you serve specific interests," Papandreou charged.
The main opposition leader said that the "argument of imported inflation is turning into a joke". He said that the price of oil in dollars had indeed doubled, but this increase was "partially counter-balanced" by the rise in the euro parity against the dollar, and charged that oil prices had risen much higher in Greece than in the eurozone.
Turning to OTE, Papandreou said that the securitization policy followed by PASOK differed from the ND government's "transfer of OTE to foreign hands", and warned that "the government's decision to concede control of the company (OTE) to Deutsche Telekom, is reversible, as is every decision that undermines the public interest".
Papandreou also attributed Vgenopoulos' slander suit against Tsipras to the problems created by the "opening up of Pandora's box" by the government, which "taught some businessmen that they can decide for and order around the country".
"Mr. Vgenopoulos is acting like a sherif...I'm prepared to waive my parliamentary immunity so that Mr. Vgenopoulos, or any 'Mr. Vgenopoulos' will not cite it as an alibi. I'm certain that other political leaders, too, would do the same," Papandreou said.
Responding to a proposal by Karamanlis for a common agreement on targeted reforms and citing the acute problem of over-borrowing from banks in the Greek society, Papandreou submitted five proposals: Immediate abolition of the conditions that invalidate, in action, the prohibition of auctioning of first homes (for overdue debts to banks), clarifying that no such auctions can be made of borrowers' first homes for debts below 200,000 euros; Prohibit auctioning of real estate at a price lower than its objective value, with the borrower receiving the difference after deduction of the money owed; Extend the arrangement in effect for farmers that the total debt (outstanding, including penalties) cannot exceed double the sum of the initial loan (instead of triple the sum, in effect today for non-farmer borrowers) to the rest of the population; reduction of the borrowing interest rates in Greece whenver the European Central Bank reduces its rates; and introduction of procedures for borrowers facing repayment problems, enabling them to extend the loan repayment period, without additional fees.
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