Papandreou’s plan to revive the economy

PASOK leader George Papandreou took to the stage at the Thessaloniki International Fair this weekend and set out his immediate plans for the country should his party win the general elections in three weeks’ time, insisting that the Socialists have the political will the current New Democracy government lacks to push through the changes. Papandreou’s proposals focused mostly on the economy but he also outlined his vision of eradicating corruption and outdated practices in the public sector. Speaking a week after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared in Thessaloniki, Papandreou made his address on Saturday knowing that his party is well ahead in the opinion polls but still only on the verge of securing enough support to grant it a clear majority in Parliament. Papandreou unveiled plans to pass five bills during PASOK’s first 100 days in government. The legislation would be aimed at supporting the market, boosting middle- and low-income earners and reducing public-sector waste. The Socialist leader said that the first bill would seek to raise public-sector wages and pensions, issue a «solidarity» payment to the poor and introduce a progressive taxation scheme for all wage earners. His second bill would aim to protect people with bank loans and to combat the high cost of living, which would include a clampdown on cartels. The third draft law is designed to increase liquidity in the market by providing loans at favorable rates to small and medium-sized businesses. The fourth bill intends to boost entrepreneurship by simplifying the taxation system and cutting down on the bureaucracy faced by start-ups. The fifth bill would aim to tackle the effects of the economic crisis on the job market. Papandreou suggested that his government, if elected, would be able to fund this kick-start of the economy by slashing public waste, clamping down on tax evasion and imposing a tax on the properties owned by the Church of Greece. «The decay we are witnessing will not just disappear,» he said. «We need to kick the economy back into action again.» Papandreou added that he would freeze the prices of state-controlled utilities and increase public investment to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as a way of stimulating the economy but admitted that it would take more than two years for Greece to meet the budget deficit limit for eurozone countries. The PASOK leader also promised to make Greece’s economy more environmentally friendly and to increase spending on education to 5 percent of GDP and set aside an extra 1 billion euros for the sector in his first budget as prime minister. Karamanlis is lining up changes of his own Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday dismissed PASOK leader George Papandreou’s proposals for reviving the Greek economy as wishful thinking and, in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, said he had plans to shake up his Cabinet as well as the remit of his government’s ministries should he be re-elected for a third term. «The only thing that he has provided is unattainable promises to everyone and unrealistic handouts in every direction,» said Karamanlis of Papandreou’s address in Thessaloniki on Saturday. «He has made promises that no government can live up to in the next few years. There is not even one unpleasant yet necessary measure for the critical condition in which we find ourselves.» In his interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Karamanlis said that one of his main aims, should he win the October 4 general election, is to create separate Environment and Public Administration ministries as well as a brand-new Infrastructure Ministry that would oversee public works projects and transport issues. He would also appoint a minister who would be given the task of ensuring that the ministries stick to the government’s agenda. Karamanlis also accepted the need for new faces in his government. He said that about 50 percent of the candidates on his party’s list for this election would be new and that he would invite people from outside the political arena to serve as ministers in his next government.