Gov’t targets wealth gap

The Inner Cabinet yesterday approved plans to create a cohesion fund to help pull 500,000 Greeks above the poverty line, but PASOK accused the government of trying to entice voters with handouts ahead of the expected general election next month. In what is likely to be the final piece of key legislation to be given the green light by this government, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis unveiled the draft law for the creation of the National Social Cohesion Fund (ETAKS). The fund could see each person living below the poverty line receive up to 1,000 euros a year. It is estimated that some 2 million Greeks would qualify for the payments, hopefully reducing the number of people living in poverty to 1.5 million. The government plans to eventually allocate some 2 billion euros to the fund each year. With Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expected to announce in about two weeks that the general election will be held on September 23, PASOK accused the government of clutching at straws in its attempt to win over voters. «Every day we have new announcements, every day we have new lies,» said PASOK secretary Nikos Athanassakis. «All the government has to show… is the worsening of the living standards of the many in favor of the powerful.» Alogoskoufis denied that the cohesion fund is a pre-electoral handout. «We are implementing our program,» said the minister. «Previous governments made pre-election handouts when they found themselves in weak positions.» Meanwhile, sources said that Alogoskoufis and Karamanlis will return from their holidays on August 16 to begin preparing the government’s election strategy. Karamanlis has asked his ministers to give him proposals for new measures that he can present in his speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair early next month, which is likely to act as the springboard for New Democracy’s campaign for re-election.