Bid for political transparency

The impact of the economic crisis on Greece and the austerity measures that have accompanied it have led to a clamor for greater transparency and accountability in the political system. Yesterday, the government said that it is trying to do just this. Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis told Parliament that PASOK is looking at ways to change the law based on two central aims: first, to introduce an effective system for oversight of politicians’ personal finances and, second, to change the rules governing ministers’ immunity from prosecution. The minister suggested MPs’ finances would be inspected by a special panel of lawmakers and independent experts. He stressed that deputies would not make up the majority on such a committee. Kastanidis said that the proposals put together by the government would be presented to a special parliamentary committee on Tuesday. He called for the parties to come together on this issue and push through the changes. During a meeting of party leaders on Monday, it appeared that there were substantial differences between the way that Prime Minister George Papandreou and New Democracy president Antonis Samaras believe the problem should be tackled. Opinion polls have indicated that there is a strong demand from voters for an overhaul of the political system and for politicians to give up the privileges they currently enjoy. This mood is likely to have been a catalyst in yesterday’s announcement that employees at Parliament would have their salaries cut. Unlike other Greek workers, who receive a 13th and 14th monthly salary each year, people working in the House also get a 15th and 16th payment, which is not taxed. However, these two monthly installments are being cut by almost half and the remainder will be taxed, it was revealed yesterday. Parliament will also stop renting other buildings, including one in central Athens that cost the state 50,000 euros a month and was used for the purpose of hosting exhibitions.

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