PM tough on corruption

The government is determined to shut out corruption and will not back down in its legislative effort to achieve this goal, the prime minister said at a meeting of New Democracy’s MPs yesterday, just days before a bill restricting media entrepreneurs’ access to public contracts is to be tabled. «We are closing one window of opportunity and loophole after another. We are responding clearly to the system of corruption and deception. In the new administration, we do not compromise and we do not back down,» said Costas Karamanlis. The timing and forcefulness of the premier’s comments are seen as highly significant since the draft media law is due to be submitted to Parliament next week. There have been indications that some quarters are unhappy with the government’s methods of combating corruption and have been trying to press for a change of policy. The bill attempts to remove the possibility of businesspeople looking to take on state contracts from hiding interests in offshore companies. It also demands that all shareholdings in media firms and companies bidding for major public works be registered. It also proposes a cut from 5 to 1 percent in the minimum percentage of share capital whose ownership legally precludes entrepreneurs from winning state contracts. Close relatives, apart from cousins, of such «major» media shareholders will be banned from access to state contracts as well. With one eye on the upcoming parliamentary vote on a president to replace the outgoing Costis Stephanopoulos in April, Karamanlis said that cross-party cooperation was conducive to progress as well as being a «responsible choice.» Meanwhile, the draft budget is due to be tabled before Parliament on Friday, before going to a vote on December 22 and the prime minister again vehemently defended the government’s audit of public finances and its economic policy. He said the key elements needed to stimulate the economy were «productivity, quality and competitiveness.»