NEWS

Ruling party MPs slam austerity plan

The government, and in particular Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, came under heavy fire on Tuesday during a heated discussion by PASOK deputies of a new raft of austerity measures that are scheduled to go before Parliament in the next few days.

A session by a parliamentary working group for economic affairs featured vehement criticism of the government?s midterm fiscal program – which has been drafted by Papaconstantinou – from several prominent deputies.

Some commentators noted that the rifts within PASOK had grown to such an extent that a rebellion was an increasingly distinct possibility.

Of the 70 deputies who addressed the marathon session on Tuesday, many did not focus on just one aspect of the midterm program but expressed general criticism of the government?s central policies and choices.

Some of the fiercest criticism came from Vasso Papandreou, a former minister and head of Parliament?s economic affairs committee.

?There is no plan, just as there was no plan last year,? she said, claiming that current efforts by the government to slash spending and raise much-needed revenue would soon lose momentum.

Papandreou also accused the finance minister of treating her ?like a fool? when she visited him in his office in November 2009, the month after national elections that brought PASOK back to power, and asked him to take measures to correct the economy.

Some of the deputies that spoke expressed opposition to the possibility of the midterm program – which foresees widespread tax increases and severe cuts to public spending – being put to a referendum, an idea that has been floated by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Veteran PASOK deputy Costas Geitonas called for the proposal to be taken off the table, saying that this would be a ?precursor to general elections.?

Another Socialist lawmaker, Paris Koukoulopoulos, claimed that the government risked ?losing touch with reality.? ?The only two things we have achieved are to drain bank deposits and fill city squares with people,? he remarked.

Despite internal opposition to the measures laid out in its midterm program, the government – under pressure from its international creditors to push ahead with reforms – aims to submit it in Parliament by the end of this week.