NEWS

PM’s map for future

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday presented his government’s «Convergence Charter,» a blueprint and commitment that Greece will gradually close the gap with its EU partners. This also constitutes PASOK’s program ahead of the national elections which must be held by spring and follows the announcement last week of a program of benefits (including wage and pension increases and lower car taxes) worth some 2.6 billion euros. Having managed to get Greece into the eurozone in his last four years in power, Simitis is now promising to raise living standards. «For 2004-2008, our primary aim is to speed up our country’s real and social convergence with that of other European countries,» Simitis said. «So that Greek citizens and their children can have more and more opportunities, the same ones as those of other citizens of EU countries,» he said. «We want development for all, for all the provinces, with social cohesion and respect for the environment.» The Convergence Charter for 2004-2008 aims at a growth rate consistently 2-3 percent above the EU average; a 10 percent rise in per capita GDP; average real wages and productivity reaching 90 percent of the EU average by 2008; a fall in the unemployment rate to 7 percent in 2006 and 6 percent in 2008; a reduction in the number of people on the social margins to the EU average; investments equal to 20 percent of GDP; a 3 percent rise in exports and 2 percent increase in tourism over the next four years. Other measures include 1.5 percent of GDP being spent on research and development, with 40 percent of this coming from private business, and an increase in the use of the Internet so as to reach the EU average. Also, 10 percent of all power needs and 20 percent of electrical power should come from renewable sources by 2008. No region of Greece should have a per capita income below 65 percent of the EU average in 2008 nor unemployment of more than 3 percent over the national average. Simitis said salary increases should correspond to half the GDP growth rate plus the inflation rate, the lowest pensions should reach 700 euros and farmers’ pensions 300 euros by 2008, and the tax rate in the top bracket should fall to 30 percent. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said Simitis was making the same promises he had made in 2000 and failed to deliver on.