Emphasis on continuity

The ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) yesterday published its economic program for the next four years. The program, contained in a 128-page booklet, carefully avoids controversial proposals, something that opposition New Democracy failed to ensure in its own program, resulting in contradictory statements by leading MPs and an intervention by ND leader Costas Karamanlis to ensure a unified voice in the media. Thus, PASOK’s program does not contain leader-in-waiting George Papandreou’s proposal for exempting employers from paying social security contributions for new employees. It is replaced by a vague reference to providing incentives for enterprises to create jobs. Part of PASOK’s program had already been announced by outgoing PASOK leader and Prime Minister Costas Simitis in his so-called «Convergence Charter» last fall. Indeed, references to continuity abound. The program provides for tax cuts and breaks. Thus, the top rate for individuals would decline from 40 percent to 35 percent, while corporate tax would be cut to 30 percent (from 35 percent) and, if the economy keeps growing fast, to 25 percent. For single-owner companies, the tax rate will be cut to 20 percent. Incentives in the form of tax breaks are given to merging companies. Steady taxation and exemption from retroactive auditing for three years are provided to 500,000 small retail firms. Simplified procedures are promised in local tax offices. On employment, the program emphasizes consensus seeking, but supports extending shopping hours, a measure opposed by small merchants. Minimum pensions will rise by at least 5 percent.