|Friday, 23 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-05-22
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou pledges state reform, transparencyA transparent state, a stronger Parliament, a new election law and changes in the mass media were the four areas in which PASOK intended to carry out reforms when it was elected to government, the leader of the main opposition party George Papandreou stressed on Friday. He was addressing an event organised by PASOK in the Old Parliament on "The political system and state at the service of the citizen".
"The symbolism is clear. We represent two opposing worlds and, however much as the people of [ruling] New Democracy desire to be wilfully blind, the truth is that their policies of lawlessness and impunity are sinking the country into the barbarity of social injustice and polarisation," Papandreou said.
He accused the government of having closed Parliament early to ensure that recent scandals that had hit the headlines were statute-barred, stressing that ND was "exclusively responsible" for this outcome.
PASOK, by contrast, was opening the Old Parliament to present its proposals on how the state could function with transparency, he added.
He said the goals of Europe's socialist parties were "democracy, social cohesion, green development, the election of the European Commission president by the grassroots and political union of Europe".
Papandreou particularly emphasised the socialists' shift away from statism but also "fundamentalist" free market philosophies, to viewing the quality and strength of democracy as the crux of the problem.
"In Norway, multinationals exploit the oil but their profits, or part of these, are channelled into the state's interests; in Africa, the profits are channelled into the pockets of ministers. It is the quality of their democracy that makes the difference," he noted.
Listing the ills bedevilling the Greek state, he criticised ND for allowing the "deepest decline of the institutions" and stressed that this downhill course had to be arrested.
Regarding PASOK's proposed changes to election law, Papandreou called for something akin to the German electoral system of proportional representation, adapted to Greece's needs.
The party also intended to introduce public debate before the tabling of legislation and to ban the tabling of amendments after a draft bill has been approved by the appropriate Parliamentary committee, he added.
In terms of the mass media, he called for greater autonomy and transparency in their operation and better control of the finances of state-run television, among others.
Outlining reforms to promote transparency, Papandreou said that PASOK intended to ensure transparency in the funding political parties and to modify the rules of the asset statement made by politicians and other officials, so that any undeclared assets would be lost in favour of the state.
PASOK's president said his party was in favour of a small, flexible and effective central government occupied mainly with defence, foreign policy, public order and major infrastructure projects, with the decentralisation of other activities and resources to a more local level, accompanied by a new wave of municipal mergers and the creation, finally, of metropolitan municipalities in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Another area that PASOK would emphasise would be that of e-governance and investment in broadband to create a host of new electronic services, he added.
Finally, he touched on planned reforms to justice and plans to boost the internal independence of judges, as well as changes to current laws on the prosecution of ministers and MPs when the next Constitutional revision occurred, so that a simple Parliamentary majority would be unable to shield politicians from prosecution.
Referring to the status of immigrants in Greece, Papandreou said that PASOK sought their integration into society, including granting Greek nationality to those that had lived in the country for a certain period of time and the granting of nationality to second-generation immigrants born in Greece.
He asked voters to bring about PASOK's victory in the European Parliament elections and its victory and an independent majority in the general elections.
Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressing an event on "The political system and state at the service of the citizen" organised by his party at the Old Parliament building in Athens on Friday. ANA-MPA - Katerina Mavrona.
 Building cost index down 0.3 pct in AprilGreece's home building materials' cost index fell 0.3 pct in April, compared with the same month last year, after increases of 5.7 pct and 7.4 pct recorded in April 2008 and April 2007, respectively. The National Statistical Service (NSS) said the index was up 0.2 pct in April from March, after increases of 0.8 pct and 0.9 pct in April 2008 and April 2007, respectively.
 Current accounts deficit down 22.2% in Q1Greece's current accounts deficit fell by 855 million euros in March to 2.706 billion euros, compared with the same month last year, reflecting a significant decline in the trade deficit, the National Statistical Service said on Friday.
The statistics agency said the country's trade deficit fell by 1.093 billion euros in March, reflecting a decline in the shortfall of goods and lower net payments for fuel imports as well as lower net payments for ship purchases. The services surplus fell by 208 million euros in March, mainly due to lower net revenue from transport services, while the current transfers deficit rose to 88 million euros, from 27 million euros in March 2008.
The current accounts deficit fell by 22.2 pct in the first quarter of 2009 to 7.331 billion euros, compared with the corresponding period last year, reflecting a significant decline in the trade deficit by 3.131 billion euros. Travel spending in Greece fell by 18.2 pct with net payments for travel services remaining almost unchanged in the January-March period.
The incomes deficit grew by 286 because of higher net payments on interest, dividends and earnings, while the current transfers' surplus fell by 124 million euros.
 Load of contraband cigarettes from China interceptedA contraband cigarette smuggling ring was uncovered on Thursday by law enforcement authorities in the greater Athens area.
According to a finance ministry announcement, police acted after a tip-off and confiscated 490,000 packets of contraband cigarettes arriving from China by ship.
The undocumented cargo was unloaded from a Liberian-flagged freighter off a remote dock at the port of Piraeus in the early morning hours.
According to authorities, the contraband cargo's final destination was Britain, with a Cypriot businessman the alleged recipient. The estimated loss in tax revenue from the cigarettes was estimated at 1.2 million euros.
 Higher sales, lower profits in '08Greek enterprises reported mixed 2008 results, with sales rising and profits falling because of high operating costs, an ICAP survey said on Friday. The survey conducted on the published balance sheets of 4,000 Greek enterprises, showed that sales grew 11 pct to 8.1 billion euros, compared with 2007, while EBITDA fell by 15 pct to 1.4 billion euros and net pre-tax profits fell 43 pct to 3.0 billion euros.
ICAP said this development reflected increased product costs and higher administration and distribution spending. The manufacturing sector suffered the biggest percentage decline in earnings (-14 pct), with pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) falling by 30 pct and net pre-tax profits falling by 57 pct in 2008. The 893 manufacturing enterprises included in the survey reported a 19.1 pct rise in costs and gross profit margin of 20.9 pct.
A total 1,713 enterprises in the commerce sector were included in the survey, with sales rising 8.3 pct and gross profit margin falling by 2.8 pct last year. EBITDA fell by 250 million euros compared with 2007, to 1.23 billion euros.
A total of 1,317 enterprises in the services sector reported a 7.0 pct rise in sales with a 10.4 pct decline in gross profit margin to 30.5 pct, while EBITDA fell 7.8 pct last year.
Tourism enterprises reported a 9.1 pct rise in sales last year, but gross profit margin fell by 8.7 pct.
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