NEWS

Budget row in full flow

Greece’s political parties reverted to type yesterday, as they slugged it out in Parliament during the debate about the 2010 budget, just a few days after a rare show of unity during which all sides had agreed to the necessity of measures against corruption. The budget is due to be voted through on Wednesday thanks to the majority support of the PASOK MPs but in the meantime the government is vehemently defending its position and trying to make clear who is responsible for the current economic crisis in Greece. «The size of the deficit that we are faced with is 30 billion euros and it is your doing: your policies and mismanagement,» Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told the New Democracy representatives in the House. «New Democracy appears to be unrepentant. Its members do not have the political courage to ask forgiveness from the Greek people for the fact that during their five-and-a-half years in power, they led this country to an unprecedented fiscal derailment and dragged its name through the mud,» added the minister. Late on Saturday, New Democracy had issued a statement criticizing Prime Minister George Papandreou for his attack on the conservatives over their handling of the economy and suggesting that he was using this to cover up for his government’s failure to come up with effective policies. In his speech in Parliament on Saturday, Papandreou had also called for the country to unite to tackle the country’s economic problems. «We need a mobilization of our political parties, unions, entrepreneurial forces, labor and all our citizens,» said the premier. «We have to put our house in order.» The 2010 budget aims to reduce the public deficit from 12.7 percent of gross domestic product to 9.1 by cutting spending and slashing waste but not through taxes on low- and middle-income earners. A poll conducted by Public Issue for Sunday’s Kathimerini indicated that 75 percent of Greeks are «very» or «quite» worried about the state of the economy and that only 15 percent think the problems will be resolved in the next year.