PASOK holds fire on closed shops

Still reapingthe backlash from its own MPs for adopting increasingly unpopular reforms and with one eye on tomorrow?s vote in Parliament on the 2011 national budget, the government today decided to hold back on announcing its plans for the opening up of closed professions.

It was instead agreed during a Cabinet meeting that the liberalization bill would be unveiled at the beginning of next year. The details of how entry into some 150 professions would be made easier and how notaries, lawyers, dentists and others would be prevented from applying minimum charges to their fees were due to be unveiled yesterday. But sources said that PASOK is concerned by the wave of opposition to the structural reforms that has built up over the last few weeks and the government feels it is wiser to allow things to cool down over Christmas and New Year before presenting the bill.

The government has been under pressure from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to open up the closed shops as it is seen as a way of generating greater competition and increasing growth in the Greek economy. The legislation will seek to liberalize these 150 or so professions, starting with lawyers, pharmacists, notaries, accountants, architects, engineers and dentists over the next six months.

PASOK will first seek to get through tonight?s vote on the 2011 budget. Although the government is not thought to be in any danger of losing the vote, the debate over the last few days has proved painful for the ruling party, just as it was last week when Parliament discussed a bill on collective labor contracts and pay at public enterprises.

?It goes without saying that I will vote for the budget,? said PASOK MP and former minister Vasso Papandreou. ?But does this mean that it is a reliable budget that will be executed accurately and which will get us out of dead ends? My answer to that is no. Providing support does not mean you have to be silent. I would say that some nos are of greater value to the collective effort than regimented yeses.?

Ektoras Nasiokas was another PASOK deputy who cast doubt on the government?s budget. ?The numbers do not add up as the country is in deep recession and there are no policies to confront this situation,? he said.

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