NEWS

The seven commandments

Addressing his new Cabinet for the first time yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis issued seven commandments in connection with the sectors in which problems may arise and damage the government’s image. First of all, Simitis called on his 48 ministers and deputy ministers to avoid public differences of opinion and to offer collective support for the government’s work. This follows a period of several months in which opposition to proposed social security reforms, even within the ruling party, prompted Simitis to call an early party congress and to reshuffle his Cabinet. We are not ministers of our ministries alone, but ministers of a government with a collective task. I want you to feel this with responsibility, Simitis said. In this vein, he said that any changes of ministry general secretaries, a ritual whenever there is a change of minister, must be done only after he has been consulted. Second, Simitis asked for the government’s activity to be quickened while at the same time placing an emphasis on the social dialogue of all those affected by changes. He indicated clearly that he does not want delays because of political costs but also does not want to rush headlong into social resistance, as with the pension reforms. Third, Simitis tried to head off the usual ministerial appeals for more funds, at a time when the international climate limits any such possibility. I want you to be careful not only with regard to funds but also in how you manage them, he said. Fourth, the PM asked his ministers to keep their doors open for PASOK MPs, so that the latter will stop protesting that their opinions are not heeded. Simitis, fifth, urged his ministers to quickly delegate responsibilities to their deputy ministers. Sixth, the prime minister, understanding that the conservative New Democracy party is planning to intensify its opposition, told his ministers that he wanted a government presence in Parliament and continual replies to the opposition’s claims. And finally, Simitis called on his ministers to publicize the government’s work without abusing their presence on television. Simitis said that the new Cabinet signaled a new era and that its priority before the elections of 2004 would be to bring to fruition the Accord for a Strong Society that he had heralded at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair last month. On the basis of this we will be judged, he said. After the Cabinet’s swearing-in at the Presidential Palace and the emotional handovers, the ministers sat down to face the difficulties of governance. National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis held a long meeting with his aides to discuss the 2002 budget. Sources said he is thinking of cutting state spending by more than another 100 billion drachmas to deal with the difficult international climate and may review next year’s growth rate, perhaps to below 4 percent. Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who moves to the Development Ministry, briefed his successor at the Defense Ministry, Yiannos Papantoniou, on procurement programs, Dimitris Reppas faced the challenge of social security reform, and Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki expressed reservations over the appointment of seven deputy ministers to handle the Olympics, which are among government’s major challenges. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis proclaimed, ‘the government that has emerged, after a five-month period in which the country was ungoverned, is not up to the demands of the Greek people.’ Winter time. Europeans get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, as daylight savings time ends. At 4 a.m. clocks should be turned back one hour to 3 a.m.