Athens passes 686mln budget

The Athens municipal council yesterday approved a massive 686.6-million-euro budget for 2004, much of which will be spent on prettifying the city ahead of the summer Olympics. The budget presented by Mayor Dora Bakoyianni – and rejected by opposition councilors – also provides for a 30 percent increase in welfare spending. The total expenditure by Greece’s largest municipality will rise 5.42 percent over 2003, when Bakoyianni first assumed her duties, to 686,578,000 euros. Some 122.7 million euros – a 10-year record – will go toward upgrading street-cleaning services, cleaning building facades, creating 50 new children’s playgrounds, reintroducing parking meters in the center of the capital, tidying up Lycabettus Hill and refurbishing a complex of 150 buildings built during the 1930s in Neos Cosmos to house refugees from Asia Minor.