|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
POLICY STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT
Misc. Greek news Directory
From: Hellenic Ministry of Press <firstname.lastname@example.org>
POLICY STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT by the Greek Prime Minister K. Simitis
Ladies and gentlemen colleagues,
I present to you the policy statement of the new PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) government, the first one not to be headed by Andreas Papandreou. Andreas Papandreou, who founded our movement, formulated its physiognomy and with its activity put his mark on the last 20 years of our country's history. The formation of this government showed that PASOK has the ability to solve problems related to its evolution in a manner that consolidates its presence through time and its dominant presence among progressive forces.
This government is the continuation of the previous government. Its target is to complete the governmental task set in motion with the policy statement of October 23, 1993; to fulfill the popular mandate of the 1993 elections; to complete the four-year term. This government is new. It has new officials. It will try to open up new paths in order to confront the major problems facing us, the challenges of the 21st century.
Greece faces developments at two different levels. It is trying to complete its exit from a society of intermediate development with the institutions and functions of an era in which the farming sector, an oligarchic parliamentary system and intense social discriminations were the prevalent characteristics. At the same time, the globalisation of the economy has altered the terms of national policy. Neither in the economy, nor in international relations or in culture, can we forge policy without taking into consideration events which take place without our involvement, and perhaps contrary to our desires. The movement of capital leads, for example, inevitably to the rule that capital, regardless of the nationality of the enterprises to which it belongs, will be invested where most profitable. The survival of our economy, under these conditions, hinges on our ability to attract capital, local or foreign, in order to advance competitiveness or productivity. We are obliged to adapt to the new realities.
But this adaptation is not easy. We have not completed the stage of exiting from incomplete development. There are still deficits of social justice, intense regional inequalities, clear social differentiations which must be combatted. At the same time, however, the internationalisation of the economy and the need for convergence towards the industrially developed countries imposes other priorities. The country has not been able, to date, to forge a consistent and effective policy reconciling the conflicting economic and social aspirations. The replies to a plethora of problems were late in coming, frequently hesitant, and without wider social acceptance.
The result is a spreading sense of weakness and insecurity. The citizens feel that their society does not allow them to use their abilities, does not provide them with prospects. They consider their lives downgraded. They ascertain that the services rendered by the State are defective. They believe that their environment wears them down instead of rejuvenating them.
Hope must be reborn. We must acquire self-confidence, as a nation and as a society.
This target cannot be realised either in the time remaining before the next elections nor with the means of intervention at the government's disposal. But we can, however, lay the foundations, we can create the climate for this change.
We can do this with realistic and specific targets, each of which will increasingly create the conviction that the passage to a new era is being methodically built. With devotion to the values of democracy, social justice and morality. With meritocracy, industriousness, creativity and the consistency of words with deeds as the tools. With political action that will return the discussion of essential matters to the centre of what is important to the citizen.
We can achieve this if we create the conviction that this government is concerned with giving Greece prestige and prospects to the citizen. If we escape from the standardised rhetoric and empty slogans that turned the people's enthusiasm into rejection. If we are true, and speak the truth.
We are living in a new age, an age as decisive for future developments as the Industrial Revolution. The new information technologies create a new environment in which knowledge, specialisation, the ability to adapt, international links play a decisive role: for individuals as well as nations; for a small country such as Greece as well as the large countries; for economic development but also social development and international relations. We must prepare for this new era. Not with our familiar tools, the family enterprises, traditional education or the policy of patronage, but with ideas, initiatives and new means which we must create ourselves. With modernisation of the society in which we live.
In our effort, we shall follow the following axes of action:
1) Our target is a strong Greece. Greece today can face Turkish expansionism and any nationalistic outbreaks from its neighbours. Our foreign policy, the expression of PASOK's unwavering patriotic stance, will seek Greece's creative and dynamic presence on the international scene, in order to broaden our alliances and play a significant role in the region. Greece will be, and will remain, a factor of peace, friendship and cooperation.
2) For a strong Greece, a skilful foreign policy is not sufficient in itself. Greece's voice bears weight when its initiative contributes to the shaping of developments, and its refusal or abstention has an important negative impact. Strength is the result of the ability to successfully compete in a world of interdependence. Necessary for this is a national strategy, a package of policies which create and maximise the domestic elements of strength, such as economic stability, sustainable development, efficient public administration, social cohesion, and a high level of education. Planning, prioritisation of targets, coordination of action, a State-headquarters, are necessary.
3) The distorted development of the social State as a mechanism of benefits to social groups of political clients have brought social policy to an impasse. The result is the prevalence of the axiom "development first, social policy later". But social protection is an essential element of the developmental process, and not the culmination of its potential success. The crux of our task, the task of a socialist party, shall be the creation of a social safety net to avert phenomena of destitution, to ensure living and welfare standards, to formulate conditions for prompt adaptation and utilisation of the human potential. Only in this way will we ensure a society with greater cohesion and solidarity. A society without cohesion is a weak society, a Greece with no future.
4) Stability of the economy is a necessary means for development. It must be a perpetual target for us. But development is not exhausted in the improvement of the indicators, it is not only a matter of quantitative adjustments. Reduction of inflation and increase of GDP are imperative. But they are not enough. We also need qualitative changes. Qualitative are the interventions in the manner of functioning of society. Interventions with which we continuously alter our environment in order to ensure for all citizens a higher quality of life. The prosperity of the citizen depends on the quality of the natural, the man-made and the social environment he lives in, on the freedom ensured for him to develop his personality and skills, on the ability provided to him to enjoy the social benefits, and on his liberation from fears and uncertainties about the present and the future, his security. This is why each sector of government action, whether significant or not, regardless of the resources we have, must be an object of our particular attention.
5) Our political system, despite the substantial progress which has been made, is still characterised by centralism. The exploitation of state power and relations of political patronage always influence public life. New centres of authority, big enterprises, media groups, guild-like groups, frequently impose views and political developments often with public funds and public support but without the knowledge of the public agencies. The private sponsorship of political parties has created invisible networks of influence. Economic power frequently and non-transparently becomes interwoven with political power. The rules of democracy must be adapted to the conditions so that there will be transparency for the citizen. Social dialogue should be the permanent means of facing problems. The autonomy of the individual, his participation in social processes should be reinforced. This reinforcement strengthens society in its entirety. A society of citizens, in other words, socially responsible individuals, is less accepting of authoritarianism and oppression. It broadens the abilities, capabilities and freedoms of all. Institutions of democracy, such as decentralisation, but also education are necessary conditions for a society of citizens. Our standing target should be the State as organiser and guarantor of freedom, a strong society.
6) We have for some time been living in an economy that knows no boundaries. The Greek economy has irrevocably been hooked up with the international economic system. Greece takes part organically and institutionally in the most important international systems of economic integration, the European Union and the World Trade Organisation.
Greece's economic development, prosperity, quality of life, the building of a new social State but also matters of national or foreign policy directly depend on our participation in these international systems, on the way we function and the role we wish to play. Our stance will be how to utilise and exploit the rules of the globalised economy and its organised systems and not how we will entrench ourselves in defensive perceptions of protectionism. Otherwise, the game is lost.
7) Our government shall pay particular attention to the ethos and profile of authority. Our fellow citizens demand ethical behaviour from public figures. They believe that those who govern should be an example to society in ethical matters. A socialist party in particular must demand that those who guide it should apply ethical principles and act ethically. Only in this way can it prove its respect for the human being, give him substance and hope. I shall now refer to the individual sectors of government policy.
FOREIGN POLICY - DEFENCE
In the sector of Greece's foreign relations, the country's national independence, territorial integrity and the safeguarding of Hellenism are the foundations of our foreign policy.
The rapid realignments of recent years on the international scene impose the formulation of a multi-faceted strategy that will render Greece an active participant in developments in Europe and open the way for a creative role in the Balkans, for a new presence in the Mediterranean.
Our goal is to strengthen our presence and our initiatives on the international forefront, at international organisations, in our bilateral relations.
Europe is our area. This is why European integration is among our priorities. At the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) our goal is to ensure the equality of member states, to avert a Europe of variable geometry, to ensure the interests of our national security and foreign policy, to reinforce democratic institutions. Our aspiration is policies that lead to real convergence of the economies and cohesion, reinforce employment, improve the position of the citizen. Policies that lead Greece to playing a leading role in the southeastern region of the European Union.
The procedures for Cyprus' accession to Europe are a priority in the framework of what has been agreed to date, thus reinforcing the efforts for a peaceful and just solution of the Cyprus problem.
On the constructive continuation of cooperation with the US, we seek new actions that will enrich our relations. Our target is to become a factor for developments and point of reference in the geo-political map being shaped in our region.
In the Balkans, the development of constructive and mutually beneficial policies and economic relations with all Balkan countries is a central axis of government policy. Our country, both autonomously and as a member of the European Union and NATO, can contribute to the search for their new orientations, to serve as an example and as a partner in their rapprochement with the European Union.
We are continuing our efforts for the implementation of a programme of Multilateral Inter-Balkan Cooperation and the advancement of inter-Balkan business activity. Of particular importance for us are the inter-European and international transport, telecommunications and energy networks crossing this area, aiming at the utilisation of our geo-political position as a crossroads of international economic activities.
Our cooperation with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) comprises a fundamental factor of stability in the Balkans. With the signing of the interim accord, a positive step was taken and our relations must continue in that direction for the best use of our geo-political position.
In the course of implementation of the interim accord, negotiations have commenced on the name issue. We shall support our well-known positions in these negotiations.
Our relations with Russia and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe are developing at all levels of possible cooperation. Historic relations should acquire new substance.
The successful process of peace and democratisation which has begun to be consolidated in the countries of the Middle East formulate a new momentum for Greece and Cyprus in the southeastern Mediterranean.
With respect to Turkey, Greece recognises the necessity of Turkey's European orientation. Such a prospect should be directly linked with respect for human rights, the principles of democracy and the political values of Europe.
The rules of international law and international treaties, and Greece's categoric desire to defend its sovereign rights remain the foundation of Greek-Turkish relations.
Our country is not willing to allow in any way the consolidation and legitimisation of the faits accomplis which have been imposed through the use of arms. On the contrary, in perpetual cooperation with the Cyprus Government, it shall continue its efforts for the creation of those conditions that will enable their peaceful reversal. Our aim is the implementation of the UN resolutions on Cyprus and the development of multilateral initiatives for a just and viable solution.
The Overseas Greeks, this large and dynamic component of the Nation, are at the centre of undivided government support with the continuation of the effort that began in 1995 and the full utilisation of the National Council of Overseas Greeks.
With unanimity, we can build a strong Greece. We will achieve this.
Our country needs strong armed forces as the guardians of our national independence, territorial integrity and legitimate sovereign rights. The perpetual goal of our defence policy remains the aversion of any external military threat against Greece and Cyprus.
The dogma of a joint defence doctrine between Greece and Cyprus is a choice that supports a just political solution to the Cyprus problem.
Greece participates in the procedures of adaptation of the NATO and WEU (Western European Union) alliances to the new status quo and the discussions on European Union security. The developments in these three organisations give rise to auspicious prospects for Greece and for peace and security in the surrounding region.
We are participating in peace initiatives under the auspices of the UN and seek bilateral defence agreements, particularly in the Balkan region.
In the sector of defence, finally, the government will continue the policy of upgrading the fighting capability of the Armed Forces at the lowest possible cost.
STATE, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, INSTITUTIONS
Our government considers that the main support of social progress is the reinforcement, deepening and correct functioning of institutions.
Firmly at the centre of the institutional and legislative task of the government are the individual and collective freedoms of the citizens. Legislation for protection from the illicit use of personal information and the taking of legislative measures to accelerate court proceedings and decongest courtrooms are immediate priorities for us.
It is our aspiration that the role of women be shown to advantage in a society in which, despite institutional equality, it continues to conceal inequalities in access and choice. The government's target is to intervene in the causes of this situation so that there will be a real equality of opportunities and treatment of the two sexes.
The supreme institutional intervention, in which many individual innovations are embodied, is revision of the Constitution. We aspire to a collective constitutional policy so that amendments to the Constitution may be approved by an increased Parliamentary majority and the Constitution of the country will not be dependent on the volition of a simple parliamentary majority.
The two major chapters of revision are the organisation and functioning of Parliament and the organisation and functioning of Justice, and, mainly, the introduction of additional guarantees of independence.
The revision of the Constitution coincides with a series of fundamental laws which are at the final stage of their drafting. The most significant of these are the bills on the financing of the political parties, the full economic transparency of public life and political officials, and substantive application of the "source of wealth" (declaration), the responsibility of ministers.
For the composition of our government we adopted a simpler, more functional scheme. In the context of the new scheme a Governmental General Secretariat is being established to undertake some of the activities of the Political Office of the Prime Minister for the coordination of the government task.
The upgrading of the role of parliamentarian and a different governmental presence in Parliament are already the subject of discussion with the President and the Presidium of Parliament. Included in this context is the return of the "Prime Minister's hour" in a form that we shall determine. Serious announcements and discussions on the large problems of the country should be made in this assembly (Parliament), to which it is about time that we restored the public dialogue of the political forces of the country.
The dialogue among the political forces takes place inside the bodies which have already been legislated, the National Inter-party Committees on foreign policy, education and public administration.
1996 is the year of completion of the great institutional reform of the State that began in 1994 and was completed in 1995. Decentralisation with (local) self-government, regional development and democratic planning comprises a strategic choice aiming at increasing democracy, participation and prosperity. The new administrative structure of the State shall be completed in 1996. The Periphery comprises a self-contained administrative centre with its own organisation, staffing and budget and the ability to take on taxation responsibilities as well. The Prefectural Self-administration is being completed with the Area Councils, expansion of the authorities of the local self-governments (OTA) and the creation of a National Council of Self-government. The institution of Regional Directors is being reformed to halt the present political and administrative conflict with the Prefects.
Our policy for the creation of a democratic, transparent, flexible and efficient public administration has the following axes:
- A system of meritocracy in candidate selection. The PASOK government, with the ground-breaking Law 2190 of 1994, succeeded in dissolving the patronage system in hiring and laid the foundations of meritocracy in the selection of civil servants. This law is being extended to the hiring of personnel in public sector enterprises, in which it is not applied today.
- A flexible structure, streamlined organisation and modernisation of the public services and system of incentives for improvement of the performance of civil servants. The government will proceed with the signing of the existing international agreements so that the system of collective negotiations will be in force in the public sector as well as of next year.
- Criteria of efficiency for each public service. We shall introduce systems of control not only for the legality of public administration, as is the case today, but also of its efficiency towards the citizen and society. The Public Administration Inspectors' Corps is already in operation, while the introduction of the institution of "Citizen's Advocate" (Ombudsman) is planned, who will examine citizens' complaints concerning the operation of public services.
Effective confrontation of common and organised crime, and the solution in general of complex problems related to order and security presupposes a contemporary and efficient operation of the Public Order Ministry services and corps. We aim at a security corps dedicated to duty, to the service of the citizen and the law, with social sensitivity in their action.
OUR ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENTAL POLICY
Following the positive performance of the last two years, the Greek economy has entered a stage of higher rates of development. For the first time in many years, all the indicators of the economy marked substantial improvement, and the real incomes of the working people increased after the shrinkage of the period 1990-93. The government's economic policy comprises a balanced combination of fiscal reform and stabilisation, developmental and restructural policy, within a framework of strong social cohesion and consensus. A firm target of economic policy is Greece's participation in the developments in the European Union and its participation in the final stage of EMU (Economic and Monetary Union).
Our economic policy's targets for inflation and the public sector deficit are expressed in the Convergence Programme. The developmental targets have already become more ambitious, since in 1994 and especially in 1995 the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was substantially larger than the provisions of the Programme.
We anticipate a GDP increase of 2.5% or more in 1996, with a parallel containment of inflation at near 5% at the end of the year. The further correction of the economic indicators, continuation of the counter-inflationary monetary and foreign exchange policy and materialisation of our investments programme comprise our strongest tools in this direction. The de-escalation of inflation will bring about multiple benefits for all: the workers, enterprises, the State.
The fiscal policy being followed succeeded in restoring the public confidence in the government's ability and determination to succeed in restoring the health of public finances. The country's fiscal condition, however, remains critical, despite the substantial improvement noted. Public sector debt servicing expenditures continue to excessively burden the State budget and place asphyxiating limitations on the exercise of our policy in general. For this reason a reduction of the overall fiscal deficit and public sector debt continue to comprise the basic targets of the fiscal policy to be implemented throughout 1996 and the following years. Achievement of the targets of the State Budget will have auspicious effects on the developmental course of the economy. It thus broadens the possibilities for the exercise of our social policy as well.
The success of the stabilisation policy hinges on a just distribution of the cost among all the social classes. The curbing of tax evasion and the para-economy, re-examination of tax exemptions and excise duties are innovations aiming at a more just distribution of the burdens and correcting distortions. Simplification of the taxation system, to render it more transparent, understandable and efficient, is a standing target for us.
There are great margins for rationalisation of the expenditures of the wider public sector, and particularly in the fields that absorb the substantial volume of resources and in public utility corporations (DEKO). We are already beginning with the expenditures for medication, which we are limiting with the introduction of open competitive procedures in the system of procurements through introduction of a list of medicines at the Insurance Funds, as well as with other measures aiming at containing prices and limiting the overconsumption of pharmaceuticals. Corresponding incisions are required in other categories of expenditures throughout the spectrum of public sector activities.
Achievement of our macro-economic targets in 1996 requires particular effort. But any divergence from these targets would automatically cancel out all the achievements of our policy to date and would put at risk our relations with the European Union, while it would cause reactions on the markets, which would act negatively on the entire spectrum of our economic policy.
The second central axis of our economic policy concerns the developmental process. Development is not compatible with political demogogy and outdated slogans. In a stage of world reform and realignments in the competitive advantages of each country, on the international markets, in business strategy, in the geo-political scenery and the institutions, we, too, must focus our attention on the real problems:
-- the productivity of enterprises and the efficiency of the public sector
-- employment, quality of labour, training and knowhow
-- research and technological development
-- investments and infrastructures
-- the networks of cooperation and information supply to businesses and State.
Our developmental strategy presupposes consensus among the forces of politics with the forces of production, with the following characteristics:
-- the coordinated and horizontal intervention of the State for the reinforcement of the competitiveness of enterprises and the formulation of steady and transparent rules of operation of the market
-- the mobilisation of private capital - which also has a responsibility for development and social cohesion - through abolition of the bureaucratic impediments and counter-incentives and promotion of the investment programme of the Community Support Framework (CSF).
-- the expansion and modernisation of infrastructure in transports, communications and energy.
The legislative and institutional initiatives which have been undertaken include rationalisation of the developmental incentives offered, reform of the legislation on the stock market and investment services, reform of the legislation on new credit means, the package of measures on confronting unemployment, etc.
In the direction of development, an immense programme of infrastructure is being advanced. The major road networks from Patras towards the borders, the Egnatia Highway, but also smaller road networks, the Rio-Antirrio bridge, the modernisation and expansion of ports, airports, the Spata airport, tourist infrastructure projects, the introduction of natural gas, all create new cost correlations as well as new investment opportunities for business.
We are materialising a substantial 1.1 trillion drachma investment programme in education, in improvement of the knowledge and skills of working people and in reinforcing employment.
We are reinforcing the provinces with investments that will absorb 3 trillion drachmas. We place great importance on utilisation of the Community Support Framework.
Substantial progress was made in the projects in 1995, which will be intensified. With the detailed and transparent procedures of evaluation and selection of the projects, the Greek government has ensured not only the smooth absorption of the Community funds but also - and this is of great importance - the efficiency of the projects and their continuing positive contribution to economic development.
We shall not follow the example of New Democracy, which squandered a large part of the First Community Support Framework on projects and seminars of dubious use just so that "the money will enter the country". Besides, the result was exceptionally meagre, since the average rate of GDP increase was just 0.9% in the period 1990-93, much lower than the rates we achieved in the last two years.
With the bill on the public utilities (DEKO), which has already been completed and will be tabled in Parliament in a few days, the process for the modernisation of public sector corporations and organisations is speeded up.
The government is already moving ahead decisively in instituting measures for effective control of the expenditures of public organisations and better exploitation of their assets. As of 1996, all the subsidised public organisations and corporations are required to submit a revenues and expenses budget, and are subject to audits. In tandem, a uniform accounting plan is being introduced in these organisations as well, which will facilitate their monitoring, while soon measures will be announced for the exploitation of their assets and the State's property.
The reduction in interest rates caused by the systematic de-escalation of inflation also reinforces the competitiveness of businesses and investment initiatives throughout the entire spectrum of the economy. The decline of 7 plus percentage points marked in lending interest has particularly auspicious effects on the cost, competitiveness and profits of business enterprises.
Reinforcing competition in the banking system is a fundamental element of our structural policy. The State, as a substantial shareholder in major banks, will continue to monitor and evaluate their administrations not only on the basis of their economic results but also on the basis of their contribution to the modernisation and competitiveness of the Greek financial/credit system. The banking system has an obligation to offer new modern services and of advancing at a faster rate those institutional interventions which reduce the cost of borrowing money.
Our developmental policy is founded also on the denationalisation of enterprises, so that they may come under conditions of competitive operation on the market. Indicative examples are the floating of a small proportion of shares of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and the DEP (Public Petroleum Corporation) Group on the stock exchange. The process of denationalisation ensures transparency, increased competitiveness and efficiency and takes into consideration the employment prospects created under the new conditions.
This policy is one of development. It does not sell off public property in order to finance consumption deficits nor does it make transfers non-profitable to the state under non-transparent procedures. It is a policy that differs from the neo-liberal haste to abandon all forms of State activity and intervention because it believes that everything can always be done better by the private sector and is indifferent to the prevalence of monopolistic interests, increased unemployment and need for public sector investments in new infrastructures. On the contrary, it is a policy that increases competitiveness, creates conditions for employment in the new environment and modernises the State's role in the economy.
The developmental process is particularly reinforced by the broader changes taking place in the countries of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and in relations between Turkey and the European Union. The opening up of the economies of our neighbouring countries and those of the Black Sea areas creates serious opportunities for exploiting our competitive advantages and for broader forms of cooperation. The country's entire economy, with the networks being materialised, is an indicator of multiple developmental influences. Northern Greece is the centre from which our efforts begin.
Our policies for the development of the rural parts of the country contain actions of all forms and are not limited to only those which are directly related with agricultural activity. The experience of the past convinces that the policy of subsidies and farm policy alone is not sufficient to ensure the economic and social prosperity of the agricultural regions.
Our strategy in the agricultural sector aims at:
a) Increasing the competitiveness of Greek agriculture through:
- rationalisation and realignment of agricultural production, adaptation of the agricultural population to the new demands
b) The planning and application of policies on land use and promotion of contemporary agricultural cooperatives, with entrepreneurial efficiency that will support agricultural production and the agricultural income.
On tourist development, the immediate priorities of our intervention concern upgrading the quality and execution of the operational programme for tourism. In the context of the prevailing intense international competition, the modernisation of tourist enterprises, improvement of the infrastructure, and quality of tourist services comprise necessary prerequisites for our country's success in this sector.
The government is aware of the capital importance of our maritime for the national economy. In all international organisations where matters of bulk shipping are discussed, and particularly in the European Union, efforts are continuing for protection of the free competition environment in international sea-borne transport.
In industry and the service sector, we are materialising a new policy aiming at the development, reinforcement and competitiveness of businesses, promotion of new technologies and innovations.
We are reinforcing private investments with simplification of the procedures, reinforcement of integrated long-term business plans and are introducing new credit institutions and tools. We are realising new investments in industrial infrastructures and quality control.
Support of SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) is at the centre of our developmental planning. An integrated package of measures has commenced which will help the efforts for adaptation of the SME to the new competitive pressures and the internationalisation of the markets.
Subsidisation of lending interest, technical assistance, business collaborations, subcontracting, incentives for mergers are only some of the chief measures of a special 370 billion drachmas programe for SMEs running to 1999.
The map of prosperity in the next century will be determined to a significant degree by progress in technology. Digital technology enables speedy production, transfer and utilisation of all kinds of information and leads us from the industrial society to the Information Society. With respect to Greek participation in the Information Society, emphasis will be placed, inter alia, on: the creation of high speed networks and their linking with the corresponding European and international networks.
QUALITY OF LIFE - ENVIRONMENT
Our government's developmental policy is not limited to the economic field. It considers that environmental protection, improvement of the quality of life and the building of a social State should be inalienable elements of development.
In the sector of the natural environment, the ecological crisis has taken on immense dimensions due to the irrational management of land and natural resources.
A way out of the ecological crisis and the achievement of new forms of development are impossible if we do not incorporate the ecological demand in the dominant value system, if we do not include environmental protection in the definition of "the general interest".
At a cultural level, this effort passes through education and by example. Thus:
- at all educational levels - with the greatest emphasis on primary education - classes and other activities aiming at the development of environmental awareness are upgraded, with the parallel training of teachers.
- the State - which sometimes is a counter-example of environmental behaviour - must function with respect for the new environmental awareness.
In tandem, to avert new damage but to also upgrade the natural environment, administrative and institutional measures are employed, such as the recording and determination of uses of land in the framework of reform and modernisation of town planning legislation. The determination of land use is one of our most important targets.
The targets of protection of the natural environment and of upgrading the quality of life in the city are also served by:
- the major projects, which relieve the environmental conditions in major urban centres (Athens and Thessaloniki metro), reduce energy consumption in transportation (such as the large road networks, the railways programme, bridges).
- the large natural gas project - which commenced in the second PASOK term in office and abandoned during 1989-93 - acquired new momentum after 1993, with the prospect of natural gas being included into our national energy balance in early 1996.
- the turn-about, since 1993, of energy policy towards energy conservation and the use of renewable sources of energy.
Residential areas, our cities and communities, have frequently been developed on the criteria of profiting from the land and natural resources of our country. Our high-quality architectural heritage and our monuments have been crudely downgraded. Measures for consolidation of the identity and physiognomy of the cities and communities of Greece, and institutional regulations, such as the New General Construction Regulation, will ease the problem.
The activities of the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works to deal with the areas of illegal construction and the drafting of a National Land Registry also contribute decisively to halting the tendency towards production of a new downgraded residential environment.
Our policy on Culture is oriented in the same direction. For us, culture gives a new dimension to our policy. The goal is to expand communication to the wider society with cultural creation. For citizens across the country to be able to participate in the benefits and communion of culture. The advancement of social models that support creativity, aesthetism, a multi-dimensional cultural sensitivity.
The great cultural projects, such as the Acropolis Museum, the unification of the archaeological sites of Athens, Thessaloniki-1997 Cultural Capital of Europe, Mt. Athos, etc., are aspirations of ours. And so is the modern operation of our museums, the protection and advancement of our intellectual heritage.
We shall work for the dissemination of our culture and the Greek language abroad.
OUR SOCIAL POLICY
Upgrading, stabilisation and development are, for the PASOK government, inalienably linked with the prosperity of the society. The government's social policy is expressed from within actions which concern investments in material and human resources, increasing employment, structural confrontation of unemployment, tax reform, education policy, health, social security, and upgrading of the quality of life. Social justice is attained with interventions in many sectors that appear to be unrelated, but which in reality are indelibly connected because they concern the abilities of the individual and his quality of life.
But we find ourselves face to face with changes in the conditions and rules of economic activity. Throughout Europe, and not only Europe, working people (and in fact the weakest members: youth, women and the elderly) are undergoing the most negative repercussions of the reorganisation of production and social relations. The Greek society must tackle these pressures with caution, credibility and determination.
The future of the social State is a primary issue in all countries. On the one side, the effort for fiscal reform limits the abilities to finance a social policy. Negative demographic developments, and chiefly the ageing of the population, intensify the problem of financing social security. On the other side, the development of society creates new problems and new needs in such sectors as health, education and welfare. Curbing waste in public expenditures could create margins for new initiatives in the fields that advance social justice and cohesion.
Before it is too late, in the coming six years, our society is obliged to design, agree on, and finally build a just and efficient social security net. The Social Security net has a dual mission:
First, to avert economic marginalisation through the ensurance of tolerable standards of living and welfare for everyone.
Second, to formulate conditions of prompt adaptability and utilisation of the human potential to meet new demands. To mobilise all the available human resources of society and to give them the opportunity to be utilised in and contribute to the development process.
The present system of social welfare must be reformed with respect to the benefits criteria as well as to the manner of financing.
- The support offered must be focused on where there is need, and not on general categories of persons
- The support should not be of a permanent nature. On the contrary, it should have a clear-cut goal and pre-determined expiry date, so as to avoid the conversion of beneficiaries into permanent "clients" of the State
- The system of funding is that which determines who shoulders the cost of social expenditures. The burden should be distributed in accordance with the rules of reciprocity and social justice. It should not create privileged groups which benefit from the resources without having contributed in accordance with their abilities.
The government, assessing the problem of the numerous low pension recipients, proceeded in 1995 with a 4% additional increase than that set out in the incomes policy. Higher increases were given also for 1996. It increased farm pensions to 25,000 drachmas. It approved 10-15% increase in series of pension funds. The present government, in accordance with the commitment of the preceding government, is advancing social dialogue in order to seek ways of correcting the injustices and inequities of the present pension system. This is important in order for us to later determine the resources required and their distribution.
At the same time, the examination is beginning of a more comprehensive revision of social security legislation. This procedure requires great care and detailed examination, and most of all, social dialogue.
The government is studying the ability of converting the auxiliary insurance branch of OGA (Agricultural Insurance Organisation) into a main insurance fund with characteristics of reciprocity, continuity and state participation.
The government is also examining in-depth the issue of demographic policy, so as to formulate a system responding to the present-day reality of the country.
The programmes for people with special needs are continuing. The target is the efficient operation of the network of Social Support, Orientation and Welfare Centres and of the Centres of Immediate Social Assistance.
On the substantial problem of unemployment, the government is casting its weight behind policies that create steady and viable prospects for the unemployed as well as working people. Policies that aim at improving their skills and the abilities of our economic system in general to create new jobs.
The programmes we have incorporated under the Community Support Framework do not have simply an economic or developmental character. A significant portion of them belongs indirectly to the sphere of "social policy". The expenditures for education, health-welfare, the vocational training of working people and the reinforcement of employment directly comprise social expenditures of an unprecedented size. Beyond that, a serious portion of the expenditures for infrastructure, SMEs, support of industry, agriculture and tourism have indirect but substantial effects on working people. A substantial portion of the investments in other sectors is essentially related to improving the quality of life and society.
The government's new structural policy on employment aims at:
- giving emphasis to the active promotion of employment and not only to subsidising the unemployed
- encouraging the creation of new jobs through the subsidisation of enterprises
- effectively linking education-professional orientation-training-job market
- reforming the existing legislative framework for foreign workers
- reinforcing the institution of trilateral social cooperation
- utilising new institutions, such as: the Labour Inspectorates for listing vacant job positions and the available labour potential, and the Labour Card, with which an unemployed person could alternatively ensure an employment position or a position for orientation or subsidisation.
In tandem, the government's efforts will be intensified to tackle social problems faced by youth. Employment, support of volunteer efforts and the concerns of youths, encouragement of productive initiatives, information on the existing prospects so as to overcome the small, and large, social problems, the development of athletics and continuation of the cultural programmes for youths are only a few of the means that will be employed in this effort. The policy of the last two years on the issue of narcotics is continuing, aiming at covering as many as possible of the drug dependent persons in the area of detoxification as well as in the extremely important area of their social rehabilitation.
Education comprises one of the most strategic fields of expression of the social and developmental dimension of government policy.
In the next two years we shall be continuing at more intensive rates the materialisation of our policy in the sector of education.
In primary and secondary education, our basic goal is the decentralisation of activities and qualitative upgrading through the following measures:
- constant training and up-dating of the teaching staff
- liberation of the education procedures from patronage, and objectivity and meritocracy in staff selection
- the implementation of an integrated programme to confront the problem of double shifts, which will focus on the 10 largest urban areas of the country that also face major problems with school buildings.
In tertiary education, PASOK president Andreas Papandreou's proposal was a recent announcement for the creation of a 200 billion drachma National Education Fund for tertiary institutions. We want flexible and efficient universities and technical colleges (TEI) which are closer to the needs of society and the economy, while at the same time putting in order the resources they manage.
In the field of health, government policy, through a broad social dialogue, is attempting the modernisation and rationalisation of the National Health System (ESY) and placing emphasis on prevention services.
The rationalisation of the ESY aims at reducing wasteful spending by the individual units but also of the system as a whole, and at the liberation of financial resources which in turn will finance health and prevention services.
The modernisation of the ESY is effected through management and institutional interventions that include:
- The creation of administration and management units in hospitals
- The institution of rules of operation and quality standards for the services offered.
Maximum utilisation of the health centres brings health services closer to the citizen, chiefly in the rural areas.
A speedy and efficient utilisation of resources for the building of new hospitals, improvement of the services of medical facilities (hospitals, clinics), the rational distribution of human resources and the operational link-up of health units contribute to the qualitative upgrading and increase in the services offered.
The government is particularly sensitive to the problems and needs of individuals with special needs, the victims of the great threats of our century (drugs, AIDS), and of the elder generation. In that framework, it is seeking the efficient operation of the Social Reinforcement, Orientation and Welfare Centres, the Centres of Immediate Social Assistance and the Centres for the Elderly.
This is the government's programme, the targets of which I shall seek, and the positions which will shape my actions.
The programmes of the right-wing - when they exist - are characterised by proposals lacking vision, by the aspiration of management but lacking social perspective, and by indifference for the collective good.
The programmes of the left-wing have targets but they lack realism, they proclaim a social perspective but the course in that direction frequently has repercussions on society.
We in PASOK are trying to unite vision with reason. The vision that inspires but is also feasible.
Many dispute it. They claim that efficiency and realism bring the end of the visions. But the visions will be kept alive only if we live and work with the existing means in the existing world. Let us remedy now not the entirety of social functions but consistently many of the daily problems, such as transportation, schools, the environment. Our policy is founded on the thought that every decision today determines what the course will be for tomorrow.
The road we have chosen is a long and difficult one. Experience shows us that fatigue often appears. We are then carried away by personal aspirations instead of the issues of primary importance, by management instead of inspiration, by exercising power instead of our goals. The result is that our message is being hidden by the shower of petty political incidents. The personal and secondary issues are excessively magnified. It is the age of disappointment and decline. We wish to put an end to the disappointment, an end to the age of non-politics.
We wish to place the values, the primary issues of life, politics, at the centre of our activity. We wish to begin the searching again. To once again acquire strength and spirit. If we succeed, we shall approach a society of freedom, democracy and social justice. What we will seek to attain is naturally only a small section of all that must be done. But we will have taken one more step forward in the effort for continuous improvement of living conditions. A step that will enable us to surpass doubt and hesitancy, a step of hope.
We shall ascertain that we have the ability. That we can. That the future can be ours. It shall be ours.