No chance of state handouts

The government is preparing specific steps to combat tax evasion and simplify the tax system, while at the same time enhancing the operation of the state and improving the quality of life, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told Kathimerini in an interview. Clarifying that «there is no margin for state handouts,» the minister stressed that there would be no chance of this happening ahead of the next elections, «since this would be totally irresponsible.» In any case, he said, «as the 2004 elections showed, people do not appreciate such moves, which are aimed solely to impress.» «For the next four years. we have to set specific and quantifiable targets, such as balanced budgets, which must be achieved by 2010. The reform program will also continue, as will the implementation of New Democracy’s program. Within this framework, we are examining the inclusion of the EKAS low-pension benefit in regular pensions,» said Alogoskoufis. He also spoke of an amount of -2 billion that will be available at the end of the next four-year term, which can be used to fund policies in favor of poor households. Asked whether New Democracy, if it were to win the next elections but with a reduced majority in Parliament, would have the strength and the courage to continue its reforms, Alogoskoufis replied that what is important is «the mentality of the government and the prime minister.» The premier, he continued, has demonstrated that «he does not take political cost into account.» Branding the opposition «nihilistic,» Alogoskoufis singled out the main opposition party in particular, saying «it has chosen a politically malevolent strategy,» which he attributed to the approaching elections. He also expressed the view that the climate will be very different after the elections, as «it will not favor political confrontations.» Alogoskoufis said he considered the role of the opposition to be «crucial,» as its consent was key for reforms to proceed as programmed by the government.

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