PM underlines the need for responsibility

Beset by a range of scandals and with economic problems looming, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday told his MPs that Greece is faced with a clear choice of supporting the responsible policies of the government in a time of crisis or opting for the populist promises of the opposition. Speaking to New Democracy’s parliamentary group at a time when opinion polls show the conservatives slipping further behind PASOK, Karamanlis attempted to instill in his deputies the message that they should not be swept up in the race to pledge easy solutions to complicated problems. «The clash between responsibility and irresponsibility is what will decide society’s choices,» said Karamanlis. «The person that makes promises is not useful, the person that leads the country out of this explosive crisis is useful.» Karamanlis did not refer to PASOK specifically but it was clear that he was speaking about the Socialists and their leader George Papandreou when he made reference to «those who refuse to realize the seriousness of the situation and who, beholden to petty political point-scoring, resort to demagoguery.» The premier and his ministers have come under pressure to produce economic policies that are easy on low-income groups and the middle classes while preventing any public utilities from raising their prices. Sources indicated earlier this week that the government is preparing to announce an extra 900 million euros of spending for next year but Karamanlis refrained from making any announcements yesterday and told his MPs that they should stop pressing the government to make decisions just because they are popular. «We will take every necessary measure but we are not going to blow everything sky high just to make a short-term impression,» said Karamanlis, whose message was also aimed at union representatives that were invited to attend the meeting. Although the prime minister avoided making specific commitments, Development Minister Christos Folias pledged that electricity prices would not go up next year. Karamanlis is due to chair a meeting of his ministerial council tomorrow to give the 2009 budget its final approval before it is submitted in Parliament.