PM tries to stay on track with reforms

Prime Minister George Papandreou used Wednesday?s cabinet meeting as another opportunity to remind his ministers that they have to keep on top of the reforms the government has promised to carry out this month as part of its commitment to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

It appears that the next major change the government is planning to announce is the creation of an across-the-board uniform pay structure in the civil service. Sources said that this is likely to be unveiled next week.

Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis said that the government would launch 2.7 billion euros worth of schemes next month to boost employment. He said that 600,000 people would benefit from the programs.

Some 250,000 existing jobs would be retained through schemes such as subsidizing employers? social security contributions, Koutroumanis said. The minister added that the government would also change legislation to provide greater benefits for the long-term unemployed who are aged between 45 and 65.

However, the government came in for criticism from the main opposition New Democracy party for failing in its promise to reduce the size of the public sector. ?They have to stop fooling us at some point,? said conservative spokesman Yiannis Michelakis. ?The Papandreou government has been promising that it will shrink the state but, at the same time, it is making it bigger.?

He referred to the creation over the last 20 months of 41 new secretariats and other services and accused the government of failing to live up to its pledge last year to shut down 30 public organizations. ?Now it is saying that most of these closures will be postponed for another nine months,? said Michelakis.

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