Papandreou blasts ND graft ‘failure’

PASOK wants to return to government to create a «just society,» party leader George Papandreou said at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) this weekend while criticizing the government for failing to tackle corruption. During his speech on Saturday and at the customary press conference yesterday, Papandreou accused the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of failing to keep their promise of «zero tolerance» of graft. «[Karamanlis] is beholden to networks and interests which do not allow him to confront the issue of corruption nor to challenge the vested interests inside and outside his party,» Papandreou said. A poll published yesterday indicated that most voters feel corruption has not been reduced since New Democracy came to power. The Metron Analysis survey suggested that 44.5 percent of people believe corruption has remained at the same level over the last two years, while 35.2 percent believe it has increased. With local elections less than a month away, the issue of corruption has taken on even greater significance and Papandreou yesterday repeated demands for the resignation of ministers over the alleged blackmail of the Mevgal dairy firm. Unveiling his policy agenda for the next year, Papandreou said that his party will make employment and education its priorities in its effort to create a «modern and effective» state. The Socialist leader proposed the funding of community service as a way of finding jobs for unemployed people. He also suggested increasing unemployment benefit so that it reaches up to 70 percent of minimum wage and making the payments available for longer than the current 12 months. The Socialist party president said Greece could benefit from a «peace dividend» with Turkey by agreeing to mutual disarmament. He said that once in government he would re-examine the government’s defense spending. He proposed the creation of a new tax system, accusing the government of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich.