ND’s Yiannis Papathanassiou says party will deregulate market

1. We are the seventh most expensive country in Europe (Nielsen survey) and the average gross wage is 37 percent lower than the European average. Living costs in Greece are 18 percent higher than in Germany. That is the reality. Most Greeks are not enjoying the benefits of the temporary growth being funded by European Union resources and the Olympic Games construction projects. Farmers, workers in tourism, industry, the media, small investors, the self-employed, merchants, low-wage earners and pensioners – more and more Greeks are having a hard time making ends meet. They are also working harder in order to deal with increased competition and the high cost of living. They are having to dig into their own pockets in order to make up for the deficits in the sectors of health, education and social security. The first thing that needs to be done to support family incomes is to provide a high standard of education and health services for all Greeks. That can be done if we decide on a strict system of evaluation for the National Health System and state education system. In addition, some measures are needed to improve competitiveness in the economy, otherwise foreign products will continue to replace Greek ones, our exports will be reduced and we will be handing over jobs to our competitors. However, improved competitiveness cannot succeed unless we adopt the Irish model of growth that emphasizes a business culture and education. The relentless rise in taxes cannot continue. From 12 billion euros in 1992, total taxation revenue has now gone up to 38 billion – that is, it has more than tripled. Yet how many Greek families have tripled their income in that time? The characteristics of the type of taxation system we should have are simplicity, objectivity and stability. All financial organizations should be be able to budget and program their activities with confidence. We would lay particular emphasis on a) fewer taxes for families, b) a drastic reduction in taxation coefficients on undistributed profits, so as to encourage investment, c) rewarding healthy, profitable business activity, and d) making the system and all related inspections more objective in order to put a stop to extortion and under-the-table transactions. So we would upgrade TAXIS (the computerized taxation data bank), computerize taxation cross-referencing, review the Taxation Penalization Code, refer inspection reports to a higher authority and abolish the Finance Ministry Police (SDOE) in its current form. Finally, there need to be real privatizations, a substantial deregulation of markets and a State that functions with clear rules for all Greeks. 2. The weapons in the fight against the high cost of living should be the deregulation of markets, support for competition, strict monitoring of the para-economy, dealing with monopolies and oligopolies, a reduction in the cost of farm production, and support for consumer unions working toward the same end. In particular, with regard to competition, I would like to emphasize that in sectors where there is competition, there are reasonable price increases or even reductions, but where there are monopolies or oligopolies, closed professions and middlemen, there is an artificial rise in the prices of fruit and vegetables, fuel and public utilities (apart from telecommunications). 3. It is clear that the system of issuing permits to street market vendors operates on criteria of clientage and is pervaded by corruption. As a result, the sector is dominated by middlemen and rackets. I think that here, too, the majority of producers are ready to cooperate with the State to close all doors – and loopholes – to these phenomena. It is a simple issue if the Development Ministry’s political leadership chooses to put consumers’ interest above that of middlemen.