NEWS

PM backs law to rein in public land sales

A law is to be passed that will prevent Greek governments from selling any public land without the approval of Parliament, Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday, hoping to put an end to the furor caused by comments from the country?s creditors.

?Public land is not for sale,? said Papandreou during a visit to the Education Ministry. The government has insisted since Saturday that it will not cash in on public property as part of its privatization program.

Athens was angered that representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, collectively known as the troika, announced last Friday that Greece would have to collect 50 billion euros from privatization before the government had a chance to present its own plans.

PASOK is uncomfortable with the suggestion that it might have to sell public land to bring in revenues. The government feels that this would be an unpopular move with voters as it is likely to be interpreted as selling off the country?s most precious assets. It is also wary of becoming embroiled in complex property deals in the wake of the Vatopedi Monastery land swap scandal.

As a result, Papandreou said that the government would introduce a law preventing ministers from signing deals to prevent the sale, transfer or exchange of public land unless the deal is approved by Parliament. Sources said that the amendment would be tabled in the House in the next few days. Papandreou suggested that the country?s constitution would also eventually be adjusted to reflect the change.

Speaking to Skai TV?s New Files program on Monday night, State Minister Haris Paboukis said that members of the government were not ?real estate agents?.

Paboukis suggested that Greece would attract up to 7 billion euros in investment by developing the site of Athens?s former airport in Elliniko. Qatar signed a memorandum with Greece last September expressing interest in investing some 4 billion euros in areas of the Greek economy such as tourism and real estate. It has been suggested that Elliniko will be one of the areas to be developed but no plans have been announced.

Meanwhile, New Democracy sources said that conservative leader Antonis Samaras would make three speeches in the coming days in which he will blame Papandreou for the poor state of Greece?s economy and its dependence on the EU and the IMF.