Big task for new minister

In a move designed to end speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle and to quickly distance his government from the pitfalls of being accused of less than transparent practices, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appointed on Saturday a low-profile successor to former deputy economy and finance minister Adam Regouzas, who resigned a day earlier. The premier chose to elevate the relatively unknown MP for Thesprotia, in northwestern Greece, Antonis Bezas to the ministerial position, causing a few raised eyebrows in the process. His predecessor, Regouzas, resigned on Friday after being linked to a television station owner in northern Greece who is facing criminal charges. Bezas, a 42-year-old civil engineer from Igoumenitsa, was first elected as a New Democracy deputy in April 2000 and then re-elected last March. He has a history of participation in local government but no significant economic background apart from serving on the parliamentary economic committee during his first term as an MP. The new deputy finance minister is due to be sworn in today and will have to hit the ground running, as sources told Kathimerini that his ministry will be redrafting the 2006 budget after criticism by EU Monetary Commissioner Joaquin Almunia last week. Almunia voiced concerns over Greece’s reliance on securitizations in the budget and it is thought the revised version will not include some 2 billion euros in state income from securitizations. The new version of the budget is to be submitted to Parliament in November. The appointment of Bezas, as opposed to transferring someone from another ministry, gives Karamanlis the advantage of not having to conduct even the smallest of reshuffles. The prime minister’s aides, sources said, felt that any shake-up of the Cabinet in the wake of the departure of Regouzas would attract unwanted attention to the issue of corruption, which Karamanlis has made much of wanting to stamp out.