NEWS

Samaras and Venizelos to make show of unity at construction site

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos are due to make a rare public appearance together on Thursday following a day of friction in the coalition government after the Socialists demand for Greece to lower value-added tax in the food service sector was rejected.

Samaras and Venizelos will appear together at a work site on the Corinth-Patra highway after the government announced that work on several stalled road construction projects would resume. The leader of junior coalition partner Democratic Left, Fotis Kouvelis, will not attend as he is on a trip abroad. He will be replaced by MP Nikos Tsoukalas.

Samaras has attached much significance to the restarting of the highway projects as he believes it can be used as an example of confidence in Greece returning. The prime minister was also buoyed on Wednesday by the news from Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis that according to the government’s Ergani electronic system, there were 8,950 more hirings than sackings in March.

The issue was discussed during a meeting of government officials chaired by Samaras that focused on combating unemployment. Samaras also heard that a survey of companies in Greece with an annual turnover of more than 1 million euros are planning to make investments that will create new job opportunities.

However, the prime minister’s appearance side by side with Venizelos at the construction site is intended to send a message of government unity at a time when PASOK appears unhappy that its request for an immediate VAT reduction for restaurants from 23 to 13 percent was rebuffed.

PASOK had wanted the measure to be included in the multi-bill due to be voted through Parliament this week as part of the government’s agreement with the troika. The coalition had agreed to bring the issue up at the next troika review in June but the Socialists felt that the healthier state of public finances meant that the government could push for a rate cut now, ahead of the tourism season.

There is also disquiet within PASOK ranks that New Democracy is trying to take the credit for the fact Greece is heading for a primary budget surplus, given that the conservatives opposed the fiscal measures in the first bailout.