ND forced to defend new taxes

The government is prepared to be unpopular in order to weather the current economic crisis, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday as he came under attack from opposition MPs over the new set of tax measures he unveiled on Wednesday. «The government is determined not to allow the problems to develop any further without intervening,» said Alogoskoufis. «We want low taxes but we want them to be paid by everyone, not just salaried employees and pensioners. We will carry on in the same manner because we prefer to be useful rather than temporarily pleasant.» Alogoskoufis was reacting to complaints about one of the new measures he has introduced, which will mean that self-employed professionals who declare an income of less than 10,500 euros will have to pay 10 percent in tax. Until now, 10,500 euros had been the tax-free threshold. PASOK leader George Papandreou accused the government of raiding taxpayers’ pockets to compensate for its misguided economic policy. «Instead of creating an effective system to catch tax dodgers and benefiting from its consequences, you are indiscriminately punishing all self-employed professionals with a tax of 1,000 euros per head,» he said. PASOK has decided to target the government’s handling of the economy after the summer lull as it considers it to be fertile ground for winning votes given the current economic climate. Socialist MP Evangelos Venizelos accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of being held «hostage» by Alogoskoufis and his policies and no longer able to rely on «a supposed crisis in PASOK to save him.» Karamanlis is preparing for his visit to Thessaloniki and speech at the city’s international fair next week. He met with New Democracy secretary Lefteris Zagoritis yesterday to discuss the content of his address and the current negative mood pervading the party, which has been brought on by internal unrest and the scandal surrounding former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.