NEWS

Government hastens to introduce overdue measures

Economic developments on an international level, repeated price hikes in the market and political and union reactions to its initiatives have delayed the government’s promise to improve people’s daily lives. The biggest problem, and perhaps the most significant thing being said by government officials at this time, is that distortions and inadequacies that existed for many years (and which the New Democracy government has not been in any hurry to correct) have now come to the surface because of the particular conditions that prevail. Of all of the above issues, and for obvious reasons, what causes the most concern is the high cost of consumer products, which, precisely because of thier vital importance, are seen to have a direct effect on people’s votes. At repeated meetings over the past week, overshadowed by the profiteering caused by the truck strike, it was shown just how hard it was to deal with the problem which, as is being said in private, has become more explosive recently due to the rapid rise in fuel prices and shortages of basic items. Explosive climate Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by Development Minister Christos Folias and his deputy on the gravity of the situation. He heard that any measures would be of limited effectiveness because of the free market, and implementing them would require speedy cooperation among the related ministries, immediate funding and getting around bureaucratic obstacles. «We have very little money and rudimentary inspection mechanisms,» Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Vlachos reportedly told Karamanlis. Meanwhile, reports by public opinion experts have put even more pressure on the government. «The high cost of living could cost the government coffers all its savings. Benefits from close cooperation with Russia in the energy sector, the Greek veto of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Yugoslavia’s NATO membership and even the impression it had given at least in the political climate of a reformist drive are not enough to offset the current situation.» Given that the next 10 days is expected to produce a fresh crop of opinion polls, the government has decided to speed up a few procedures. Over the next few days, according to sources, the ministers for Development, Economy and Finance will jointly announce the beginning of another batch of 41 measures recently announced, such as cross checks and other measures presupposing funding by Alogoskoufis, which the government hopes will have immediately visible results. On another front, the food scandals, it appears that the government, after a delay of four years, is soon to turn over control of inspection teams for food products to the Ministry for Agriculture Development and Food, which has been demanding the move for some time. A similar delay has surrounded the debate on the deregulation of certain professions in line with the rest of the European Union. Open fronts All of the above are initiatives that could deal with future problems but certainly will have no effect on the political climate, which will cause the government to be even more vigilant. In any case, the high cost of living is not the only front the government is fighting at the moment. Ports, universities, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and the second phase of unifying municipalities (Capodistrias 2) are causing further social unrest. Of particular concern is a repeat of last year’s student strikes that virtually paralyzed universities. Already, protests surrounding the election of rectors next week are at a peak. Particularly on guard is Education Minster Evripidis Stylianidis given the bitter experience of his predecessor. So far the government and prime ministerial advisers continue to believe that what is to a great extent an imported situation is not enough to overturn the existing political situation that is being formed by two main factors: the durability of the prime minister’s own image and PASOK’s continuing inability to persuade voters that it is an attractive and viable alternative. «Governments naturally see their support dwindle during difficult times. However, barring an economic disaster, a political landscape is not destroyed if the prime minister of a country has a strong image and his party is more convincing (even if only less negative) than current options,» wrote prime ministerial adviser Yiannis Loulis on his website. This explains the increasing number of statements being issued by Karamanlis on critical issues.