NEWS

PM hits the road to laud work of gov’t

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis took his government’s spending policy on the road on Saturday in a bid to show voters that the ruling New Democracy party has what it takes to deliver major infrastructure projects despite submitting to Parliament today a heavily tampered 2006 budget suffering from revenue cuts. On a trip to northern Greece’s Grevena, Karamanlis said that the construction of one of the country’s biggest road projects, a 4.6-billion-euro highway linking Greece with Turkey, Bulgaria and Albania, is on target. «Work is progressing quickly. The timetable will be respected and the Egnatia Highway will be ready for 2008,» Karamanlis said on a visit to the construction site. The 2006 budget, to be submitted to Parliament today, has undergone a number of revisions since its inception in order to bring it in line with European Union (EU) accounting rules. Some 1 billion euros was slashed from its earnings last week due to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical arm, questioning revenues from existing tax debts. The ruling conservatives have consequently been forced to reduce their spending across ministries and trim the vital public investment program. The country will face EU sanctions if the deficit does not fall to below 3 percent of total economic output next year. Cut-and-pasting in the budget’s preparation have dented the popularity of the government’s economic policy. The government has blamed PASOK for overestimating the budget woes and for consequently shaking confidence in its economic policy. As an antidote measure, Karamanlis is sticking to reform talks and the fight against corruption. Surveys show that the corruption of state officials is seen by Greeks as one of society’s largest problems, after unemployment. «There is already a new political climate of zero tolerance toward corruption. There have been developments in the self-cleansing of the justice system,» Karamanlis said. Investigations into the judiciary system by the Justice Ministry have so far resulted in the firing of 11 judges, since January, with tens of more officials currently being investigated. The corruption scandal has reached as high as the vice president of the Supreme Court, Achilleas Zisis, who has now been suspended.