Local government to be overhauled

Ministers convened yesterday to take part in a Cabinet meeting, unusually held on a Sunday, to approve the ruling PASOK party’s plans to overhaul local government and cut the number of municipalities by almost two-thirds. Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis unveiled plans to redraw administrative boundaries and cut red tape at a local level. At the heart of the proposals is the plan to do away with the 76 prefectures that currently span the country and replacing them with 13 larger regions. Similarly, 1,034 municipalities will be whittled down to less than 370. Prime Minister George Papandreou described the «Kallikratis» plan as «radical.» «This new architecture is an unprecedented structural change and the start of many big changes in 2010,» said Ragousis. «New architecture means planning and research, it means having a stable structure and it means rules of conduct and communication.» The minister said that the government plans to release the plan soon for public consultation, as it hopes to pass the relevant bill through Parliament by May. This would give it enough time to make the changes that «Kallikratis» envisages in time for November 14 local elections, which would take place under the new set-up of fewer municipalities. Among the other ideas being put forward as part of the plan is the creation of electronic Citizen Service Centers (KEP) in rural areas where residents will be issued with smart cards that will allow them to request documents, submit applications and perform other bureaucratic tasks electronically.

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