PM turns to handouts

In the hope of reversing his party’s sagging fortunes, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced a range of handouts yesterday aimed at easing the effects of the economic crisis on poorer Greeks. Speaking in Parliament, Karamanlis revealed that pensioners and the unemployed would receive a heating fuel supplement of between 100 and 200 euros, depending on where they live. From January, unemployed people and those on basic state pensions who have mortgages will also receive a boost of 500 euros. About 280,000 jobless will be given an extra Christmas bonus of between 103 and 430 euros as well this month. The handouts are expected to cost the government some 370 million euros at a time when the Greek national budget is coming under severe strain. Karamanlis repeated his position that he is not prepared to risk derailing the country’s economy by offering widespread handouts but he indicated more measures could be announced following the conclusion of the European Union leaders’ summit on Friday. «The government is here and is displaying responsibility, seriousness and specific measures to confront the effects of the international crisis,» said the prime minister. «That’s Greece’s problem exactly: The New Democracy government is here,» said PASOK leader George Papandreou. The Socialists were given a boost yesterday when an opinion poll showed that they had a 5.5 percent lead over the conservatives. A Metron Analysis survey carried out for Ta Nea newspaper put PASOK on 34.9 percent and ND on 29.4. Papandreou accused the government of not being able to deal with people’s problems because it was too embroiled in scandals. He also accused ND of failing to show any responsibility by refusing to admit its role in these affairs. The PASOK leader went on to say that, should his party come to power, it would abolish all the laws that damage workers’ rights and threaten the social security system.

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