NEWS

ND crisis exit strategy unveiled

New Democracy attempted to steal a march on PASOK yesterday by announcing a set of proposals designed to aid the recovery of Greece’s economy, as it emerged that Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who is spearheading the effort to get the country’s public finances back into shape, has been locked out of his office this week by protesting civil servants. The conservatives presented a package of 23 measures they believe would help revive the economy and that the government should adopt immediately. The suggestions include asking the European Union to allow Greece to defer for a few years its contributions to projects that are co-financed by Athens and Brussels. ND also encouraged the government to sign up to as many public-private partnerships as possible so that the country can make maximum use of the right to borrow from the European Investment Bank. The opposition party proposed that red tape be slashed so it is easier for outsiders to invest in Greece and for Greeks to start their own businesses. ND’s package also contains ideas about how to stimulate the tourism and construction sectors – two driving forces of the Greek economy. Party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos justified an apparent change in tack by ND, which had until this week been broadly supportive of PASOK’s fiscal measures. «Consensus does not mean providing a blank check,» he said. «When [ND leader] Antonis Samaras thinks that the government’s decisions do not help the Greek economy out of the crisis, then he will be highly critical.» Meanwhile, it emerged that protesting Finance Ministry officials have been blocking the entrance to the building that houses the ministry for the past few days, preventing Papaconstantinou and other top officials from getting to their offices. The minister has been forced to temporarily relocate to another building in central Athens that houses tax and customs officials. However, as this latter group yesterday agreed to extend their strike into next week, there are fears that access to this building will also be blocked.