NEWS

Full focus on Salonica

After a full day of discussions yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to meet with his Inner Cabinet today to put the finishing touches to his keynote economic speech, which he will deliver in Thessaloniki on Saturday. Karamanlis was a busy man yesterday as momentum builds toward his first major economic policy speech since becoming prime minister. He will speak at the inauguration of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday and intends to lay out New Democracy’s blueprint for the future of the Greek economy. Karamanlis met with Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos yesterday to discuss the details of the speech. After the meeting, the ministers refused to be publicly drawn on what policies Karamanlis might present in Thessaloniki. The main financial difficulty the government faces is that the fiscal deficit is expected to top 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, while public debt is also rising. However, Karamanlis is not expected to announce any radical moves or quick fixes, opting instead for as smooth an economic transition as possible. He’s expected to declare the government’s aim to be to reduce the deficit to 2.8 percent of GDP via a privatization program which will raise 1.6 billion euros by freeing up finances that have been tied to the Olympics in recent years. Karamanlis is likely to announce a specific timetable for the measures the government is to employ. He is also expected to give great emphasis to areas such as the reduction of unemployment, an increase in productivity and in more investments, especially from abroad. The prime minister also found time yesterday to meet with representatives from the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE), an annual tradition before the TIF. Karamanlis came under pressure from the northern industrialists to shift the focus of economic policy from Athens, now that the Olympics have ended, to the rest of the country. «We are proud the Olympics have been completed successfully. We believe the time has now come for the government to involve itself with the provinces and their development, in the wider sense, not just in business but society as well,» said SVVE President Dimitris Symeonidis.