NEWS

Politicians lash out at critics

Greek lawmakers yesterday hit back at criticism from the media, unions, businessmen and voters about Parliament’s failure to stop the country from descending into economic crisis. There was a furious response from some MPs after comments by the head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, in which he placed the blame for Greece’s problems firmly at the feet of the country’s politicians and suggested that it would be the business sector that would provide solutions in the future, not the political system. «There is an unwillingness among politicians to saw off the branch they are sitting on,» Daskalopoulos said on Tuesday during an event organized by SEV, at which both Prime Minister George Papandreou and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras spoke. Daskalopoulos was repeating a theme that has been heard repeatedly over the last few weeks, namely that the political system is desperately in need of reform in order for the country’s lawmakers to be more accountable to the people. This negative mood has prompted PASOK and ND to react by competing with each other to come up with proposals about how the system could become more transparent and responsive. Samaras has proposed a reduction in the number of MPs from 300 to 200, while the government is looking at ways to ensure that ministers are not immune from prosecution for any crimes they have committed while in office. However, the politicians hit back in force yesterday, with Papandreou leading the way when he accused some people of trying to «flatten everything.» He did not mention Daskalopoulos by name but Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis was even more direct in his attack. «Politics cannot be changed by businessmen who for years have wasted public money while being protected by the state,» he said. «Have they only just realized that the free market can provide solutions to the problem.» Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos was also robust in his defense of Parliament, saying that accusations of waste in the House were exaggerated, as its expenditures only make up 0.0035 percent of the national budget. He also said he was against the idea of reducing the number of deputies. In response to the crisis, the high wages of parliamentary assistants are being cut, while deputies’ monthly salaries are being trimmed from 6,500 to 4,000 euros.