Karamanlis wants push on all fronts now

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis a week ago told his top two economic ministers, of economy, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, and of development, Dimitris Sioufas, that bold reforms to bring greater investment and mobilize productive forces can wait no longer. «All fronts must open and close within the next six months; forget 2006,» he was reported to have said. On Friday, Alogoskoufis sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki asking for a special session of the Economic Affairs Committee that would promote consensus among parties as to which structural reforms must be pursued and what content they should have. To be sure, unions, employers and political parties have never been readier to discuss big reforms. Labor union chief Christos Polyzogopoulos last week spoke of the need for a national social pact that will secure the future of pensions for the younger generation. The employers have also called for bold pension reform. Main opposition PASOK party leader Giorgos Papandreou told his party’s recent congress, «We are not afraid to discuss social insurance, the top social policy issue.» He also set as the economic policy goal guaranteeing employment and flexibility in the labor market. Nevertheless, this convergence of positions does not mean that consensus has been given. The government will need flexible tactics and an inspired strategy to persuade citizens that the changes do not mean the destruction of the existing social protection mechanisms, but signal its improvement. «We shall proceed with prudence and clear-headedness, and shall carry on exhaustive dialogue with all sides involved,» Alogoskoufis told Kathimerini. Nonetheless, he insists that the government will not shirk from adopting the right decisions for extricating the country from the vicious circle of deficit and debt.

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