NEWS

Budget set for green light

Greece’s 2010 budget, which is aimed to start chipping away the country’s soaring deficit, was due to be passed through Parliament last night following further arguments between PASOK and New Democracy about who is to blame for the poor state of the economy. PASOK’s comfortable majority in the House (the Socialists hold 160 of the 300 seats) was expected to make the voting through of the budget a mere formality. The center-left government aims to reduce the public deficit from a runaway 12.7 percent of gross domestic product to 9.1 percent next year, although this would still be three times the eurozone limit. Ruling PASOK said that it would implement further cuts if possible to reduce the deficit to 8.7 percent before the end of the year. According to the budget submitted to Parliament, Greece will borrow 53 billion euros next year and will pay almost 13 billion in interest payments to service its debt. Since the budget debate began last weekend, PASOK and ND have been at odds about which of the two mishandled the economy and how best to fix it. Before the midnight vote, last night’s debate was due to culminate in speeches by the party leaders. The address of New Democracy President Antonis Samaras was expected with great anticipation, as sources indicated that he had changed his original stance, which was to only mildly criticize the government to one where he will be much more outspoken, accusing PASOK of not taking the crisis seriously enough. Earlier, Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis had accused ND of not being clear in its positions and highlighted the fact that conservative deputies are split on the actual size of the deficit, with many claiming that it is not as high as 12.7 percent of GDP, while others, including former Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, insisting that it is that high. Meanwhile, Economy Minister Louka Katseli underlined the importance of Greece getting its economy back on track and encouraging growth. «If we fail, our children will not be able to find jobs in five to 10 years’ time,» she said.