NEWS

PM in last-ditch appeal before pension vote

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday stressed once again that austerity measures are the only antidote for the country’s debt-ridden economy but fears are reportedly mounting in the ranks of the government that a significant number of deputies in ruling PASOK will oppose key provisions of crucial pension and labor reforms due to be voted through Parliament tomorrow. «The country is in a deep financial crisis; we are doing everything we can, within a very pressurized time-frame, to restore some order amid the current chaos,» Papandreou said before accusing the previous conservative government of creating the current problems. For his part, the leader of conservative New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, launched a scathing attack on Papandreou’s administration and its pension reform bill, which he described as «unfair, ineffective and incapable of guaranteeing the viability of the system.» Samaras reiterated his party’s intention to vote against the draft legislation tomorrow. The leaders of the smaller parties added their voices to the criticism yesterday. But political discontent is not confined to the opposition. There are fears in the Maximos Mansion, sources told Kathimerini, that several PASOK MPs might vote for the bill in principle but oppose specific provisions. This could cause serious problems for the government, which has pledged to push through the pension and labor reforms as part of a raft of austerity measures in exchange for 110 billion euros in loans from the International Monetary Fund and European Union member states. In a bid to appease lingering concerns among ruling party deputies, Labor Minister Andreas Loverdos – who has spearheaded the drafting of the controversial reforms – introduced some last-minute changes to the text of the draft bill. According to sources, these changes include a commitment by the government to provide «decent pensions» to citizens and to protect auxiliary pension funds. Even if the pension bill is successfully voted through Parliament in principle, which is widely expected, there are fears that critics will respond by lodging a slew of legal appeals which may slow down the process of the new law’s implementation and jeopardize Greece’s international rescue package.