ECONOMY

SEV: Opposition parties, do your job, rein in the State

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday accused opposition parties of pressuring the government to overspend next year, at a time when restraint and a balanced budget should be the first priority. The criticism came as Parliament kicked off a debate on the 2003 budget on Wednesday. The discussion is due to end on Sunday with a vote at midnight. Not enough has been done to curb expenditure next year, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, SEV chairman, said. Moreover, opposition parties were not doing enough to prevent budget over-runs. «On the contrary, we see all the opposition parties pressing the goverment to increase spending,» he said. «We should try to balance the budget and re-establish the goal of a budget surplus as soon as possible.» Kyriakopoulos said the spending target next year could probably end up higher than planned, given the expenditure slippage this year. Ordinary budget expenditure is projected to grow by 5.1 percent in 2003 from 3.9 percent this year. The central government’s primary expenditure is estimated at 25.9 percent of GDP next year, unchanged from 25.8 percent this year. The government has said it aims to cut down on consumption spending next year. It is also preparing stricter spending rules and plans to adopt a balanced central budget tenet. A general government fiscal deficit of 0.9 percent is projected for next year. The government had in September trumpeted the country’s first fiscal surplus in 2001, only to retract the claim after Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency, reclassified the data to include capital transfers and injections. A small budget surplus appears to be achievable only in 2005. Kyriakopoulos said ministries were also guilty of fiscal imprudence, with each department seeking to boost its appropriations rather than reducing them. He said the government could take a leaf from the private sector when it comes to planning the budget by adopting a proper and transparent accounting system. «A mature opposition party would pressure the government toward this end. It’s an opportunity for the opposition to speak out in Parliament,» he said.