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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 12-12-06
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Former minister of Iceland Steingrimur Sigfusson interviewed by AMNAwebTVAMNA--Other countries would benefit from examining Iceland's solution to the financial crisis, the country's former finance minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said in an exclusive interview given to AMNAwebTV on Wednesday.
"I don't believe that Icelanders have the magic formula for a solution to the crisis but it would be good for other people to study Iceland's experience," he said, describing how his small country of just 320,000 had adopted the opposite tack from the rest of the world and chosen to let its stricken banks sink in order to protect its citizens.
Three of Iceland's largest banks went bankrupt in 2008, saddling the tiny country with massive debts. Four years and a partial default later, the country appears to be largely over the crisis and is now returning to the markets.amna
I believe that we cannot yet say that Iceland is completely over the crisis but we have made considerable progress and the country is recovering in many areas. Growth has returned, unemployment is falling and the situation is stabilising but we still have work to do until there is a full recovery and we emerge from the crisis, Sigfusson said.
He noted that Iceland had employed a number of unorthodox methods in its approach to its own crisis, partly because the banks were too big for Iceland's small economy to try and save. This turned out well in practice, he added, since instead of giving money to old banks, the country created a new banking sector to which it transferred all deposits and then took immediate action to cut spending and raise tax revenue. At the same time, Sigfusson emphasised that great care was taken to preserve the social state and protect those on low incomes.amna
The former minister said that through drastic measures of this kind taken in 2009, Iceland had managed to achieve an almost balanced budget in 2013.
At the same time, he pointed out that Iceland had had the additional option of devaluing its currency and this greatly helped boost its exports and the competitiveness of its economy.
On the issue of austerity as a means of exiting the crisis, Sigfusson said that Iceland had followed a mixed policy that also supported society and did not restrict low incomes rather than just cutting spending and raising taxes, suggesting that austerity alone was not enough to solve the problems.amna
"Social cohesion is very important in a situation like this," he said.amna
Questioned about the possibility of Iceland applying to join the European Union and the euro area, the former minister said that Iceland had previously decided to negotiate with the EU since it had close trade ties with Europe, with 70 percent of its imports and exports linked to the EU. He noted, however, that there was now strong and growing opposition to the idea of EU accession in the country and it was not at all certain that it would join the EU.
 PM and Finance Minister meet over tax system draft lawAMNA -- Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had a meeting at Maximos Mansion late on Wednesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on a new draft of the tax system law
Finance Ministry senior officials will meet with representatives of the three political parties supporting the coalition government on Thursday afternoon to discuss the new tax bill, with the focus on proposed changes to the income tax scales and family benefits for children.
The aim is that the changes to the income tax rates will not further burden low and medium incomes and that the child benefits will be more auspicious for a large number of taxpayers, especially for families with three or more children, in accordance with guidelines set out by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to the Finance Ministry.amna
Sources told AMNA that a number of alternative scenaria are already on the table for covering any losses of revenues to the state from the more auspicious changes being mulled on the tax rates for salary and pension earners and for taxpayers with children.amna
One of the alternatives on the table is to increase the license (occupation) tax on free-lance professionals or increase the property tax on taxpayers with real estate holdings of large value, which are the most likely against other alternatives such as increasing the tax on interest earned on bank deposits. The license tax is currently 500 euros per year.
The government's decisions need to be finalized at the latest by Tuesday, at which the tax bill must be tabled in parliament, in accordance with the Finance Ministry's timetable.
 Cost of repatriation of non-EU migrants over 1,100 euros eachAMNA--The average cost of repatriating non-EU citizens who entered Greece illegally costs the Greek state more than 1,100 euros per illegal migrant, according to a document submitted to parliament by the European and Developmental Programmes Management Service, in reply to a question tabled by Independent Greeks MP Marina Chryssoveloni on the cost of the programme of obligatory and voluntary repatriations.amna
Voluntary repatriations from May 2010 to June 2012 numbered 4,373 persons, for a total cost of 4,688,034.27 euros, which averages out to 1,104.05 euro per individual.amna
Obligatory repatriations between June 2009 and November 14, 2012 numbered 2,507 persons on 36 direct charter flights, for a total cost of 3,727,303.94 euro, which averages out to 1,486.76 euros per individual, which includes the cost of police escorts, and an additional 4,969,421.51 euro for another 12,279 repatriations via commercial flights.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesThe Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The ongoing discussions over the new tax bill, mostly focusing on the changes in income tax rates and the benefit for families with children, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Free access to public hospitals".
AVGHI: "Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) hooded troublemakers playing with fire".
DIMOKRATIA: "Disaster for professionals".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "You are fired".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They are imposing taxes with 'presumed cost of living' criteria on zero incomes".
ESTIA: "Radical simplification of taxation".
ETHNOS: "Five changes to the tax bill on the table".
KATHIMERINI: "Incarceration, without suspended sentences, for tax evasion convictions".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Professionals, small and medium size enterprises targeted".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Organisation and escalation of the struggle against the anti-popular measures".
TA NEA: "Playing with fire in view of the '2008 specter' (shooting death of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos by police guards on Dec. 6, 2008, that sparked mass riots in Athens)."
VRADYNI: "All the changes in pensions".
6 DAYS: "Government 'gifts' 840 million euros to Water Board (EYDAP) 'suitors'."
 Large black market warehouse raided, two arrestsAMNA--A large warehouse with an immense quantity of black market products was found on Thursday morning in Omonoia Square in downtown Athens, in the context of the ongoing police operation 'Xenios Zeus' against crime and illegal migration that was launched in August.amna
Police arrested two men, a Greek and a foreign national, and confiscated an estimated 60,000 pairs of eyeglasses that are replicas of well-known brand names, accessories and various electronic goods of brand-name companies.
 Energy Minister on Deutsche Bank hydrocarbon reportAMNA--The government has no comment on a Deutsche Bank report of possible natural gas deposits in the sea region south of the island of Crete, Energy Minister Evangelos Livieratos said on Wednesday.
The ministry "does not comment on any assessments made by foreign banks or international agencies as regards the existence of and probable deposits of hydrocarbons in the Greek sea region," he said, adding that "the government is keeping to the timetables and the terms set for conducting geophysical research."amna
According to a recent briefing of ministry officials on board the Norwegian PGS exploration vessel, 30 pct of the geophysical survey of the region in question has been completed on schedule.
 Porto Carras to close casino, resort for winter seasonAMNA--The northern Greece luxury resort of Porto Carras will close its casino and other facilities this winter, the owner of the resort, Technical Olympic, announced on Wednesday in reply to press reports.
The company said it is "dealing with the current unfavourable economic conditions and restructuring" the services of the resort, which includes three hotels, a marina and a winery. amna
It plans to reopen for the summer season, pending a permit by the ministry of tourism to operate seasonally. The decision will affect 500 employees of the casino, who will be temporarily laid off or placed on rotating shifts elsewhere within the resort complex.
 Tsarouchis exhibition at Benaki MuseumAMNA--An exhibit of works by noted Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) is being relocated to the Benaki Museum after suspension of the private Tsarouchis Museum's operation due to lack of funding.
The exhibition opens on Friday at the Benaki Museum's annex at 138 Pireos St., where the artist's drawings and paintings will be housed following the closure of his private museum.
The Benaki exhibition, entitled "Yannis Tsarouchis: Studies on 17 Themes," aims to reveal part of the process that the artist followed to complete his paintings.
Tsarouchis designed and built a two-storey house in the northern Athens district of Maroussi to house his archives and collections, setting up a foundation to run the facility. However, after a 30-year run the museum's operations were suspended for lack of funding, which relied mostly on ticket sales.
The exhibition will run until March 31, 2013.
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