Gov’t sees crucial year for reforms

The government needs to push ahead with reforms this year or risk losing the chance to introduce much-needed changes to the economy, according to Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. «Whatever does not take place now will not happen by the end of the government’s four-year term,» the minister said while speaking to Kathimerini. The conservatives, re-elected in September last year, are preparing reforms with an emphasis on balancing the budget by 2010 and streamlining the social security system. Proposed changes to the pension system, which include merging dozens of funds in the fragmented system, have met with strong opposition, denting the conservatives’ popularity. However, senior government sources said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is determined to push pension reforms through Parliament in the first half of the year. Alogoskoufis said that the outcome of the next round of upcoming wage negotiations between employers and workers on pay hikes over the next two years will play an important role in shaping the country’s inflation rate. «I would prefer the agreement to cover three years so that there is a stable midterm framework. With its three-year stabilization program – which has already been announced – the government has set strict policy targets,» the minister stressed.