2005 budget tabled

A row broke out in Parliament yesterday between the government and the main opposition party as Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis submitted his 2005 budget, promising to lower the public deficit and debt while increasing growth and revenues. «It is a budget that, combined with the audit process, has caused a great defamation of our country,» said PASOK chief George Papandreou while Alogoskoufis was presenting his budget to Parliament at noon. «We cannot trust this budget, just as we cannot trust this government with the economy,» said Papandreou. Alogoskoufis made his presentation to the house after the 2005 budget had earlier been officially submitted to the General Accounting Office. By interrupting Alogoskoufis’s speech, Papandreou broke parliamentary protocol and was later reprimanded by the speaker of the house, Anna Psarouda-Benaki. But the finance minister hit back at the PASOK leader’s comments: «I had expected more modesty, self-criticism and personal responsibility from the leader of the party that handed over the Greek economy, not only with terrible public finances but in a state from which reality could not be discerned,» he said. His comments were backed by PM Costas Karamanlis. «The first budget is of great symbolic value and it proposes a leap in quality from fiction and unreliability to trustworthiness and consistency,» he said after an Inner Cabinet meeting where he asked his ministers to keep a tight rein on departmental spending. The budget proposes to raise public expenditure by 4.8 percent and increase revenues by 7.4 percent. Alogoskoufis also reiterated the government’s intention of reducing public debt from 112.1 percent of GDP to 109.5 percent by the end of 2005, as well as lowering the public deficit to 2.8 percent, from a projected 5.3 percent. The economy is expected to grow by 3.9 percent in 2005. Spyros Papaspyros, president of umbrella civil servant union ADEDY, said the budget confirmed «the harsh reality in store for workers and families.» The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) called for workers to take part in three days of protest from Dec. 13 to 15 against «austerity, unemployment and costliness.» After five days of debating, the budget is expected to be approved in Parliament on Dec. 22.