NEWS

PM sets out priorities for new ministers

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had the first opportunity yesterday to speak to his new Cabinet following a swearing-in ceremony, as he underlined that the economy and public order would top his government's to-do list. In a public address after the first meeting of his Cabinet, designed to pull New Democracy out of its rut, Karamanlis told voters that tough times lie ahead for Greece. «There are no easy solutions,» he said. «We have an uphill struggle ahead of us as 2009 is going to be a difficult year. The global economic storm is unprecedented in postwar years.» The prime minister outlined five main areas on which his government must concentrate: boosting liquidity in the economy, protecting jobs, supporting the poor, continuing reforms that will help growth and ensuring that European Union funds are used to help employment and growth in rural areas. However, Karamanlis also made particular reference to December's rioting and said that his government would not allow «catastrophic violence» again. The premier also hit out at parties and unionists that are guilty of pursuing «populist» tactics. «Our position is well known: We will not toy with the future of the country,» he said. Karamanlis also directed part of his speech to his Cabinet, telling his ministers that they should «work hard and not talk too much.» He made a point of instructing them to keep their ministry expenses to a bare minimum. Some outgoing ministers were not prepared to share in the positive spirit. Michalis Liapis intimated that Karamanlis, his cousin, had not treated the Culture Ministry seriously and had starved it of funding. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis kept his speech to just a few minutes and warned that «in economic policy, those that spend are not the ones who pay the price.» Outgoing Agricultural Development Minister Alexandros Kontos thanked everybody at the ministry, including the guards and cleaning staff, but failed to say anything about his deputy, Costas Kiltidis, whose statements before a parliamentary committee were construed as implicating Kontos in the Vatopedi land scandal.

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