NEWS

ND decries gov’t policy

The leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, yesterday accused the government of political irresponsibility, claiming that the tough austerity drive of the past few months could have been avoided and offering his own counterproposals for reviving the country’s beleaguered economy. Addressing hundreds of businesspeople at the Thessaloniki International Fair, a week after Prime Minister George Papandreou outlined his government’s policy plans from the same podium, Samaras accused PASOK of deceiving the public. «The Socialist government has told several lies – the International Monetary Fund and European Union memorandum was not the only solution for Greece,» he said, adding that «tough austerity policies could have been avoided had the government acted in time.» The ND leader said the government should have borrowed on the bond markets in January, before the debt crisis peaked, to secure enough cash for the rest of the year at a reasonable rate. Samaras referred to PASOK’s «seven lies.» One of these, he said, is that the agreement with Greece’s creditors – offering a raft of austerity measures in exchange for 110 billion euros in loans – was «supposedly inevitable.» The ND leader proposed instead seven reforms, or «seven truths.» These include the drastic reduction of taxation once Greece emerges from the stewardship of its creditors, the gradual reduction of social security contributions for both employers and employees, and a focus on harnessing Greece’s potential strengths. «We have not taken full account of our comparative advantages as an economy, like tourism,» Samaras said. As for the possibility of PASOK calling early general elections, Samaras said this would be an admission of failure. «In any case, we will be ready,» he said. Meanwhile the results of a new opinion poll, carried out by Alco for To Thema newspaper, showed that the Socialists would win 34.6 percent of the vote if elections were held now, compared to 25.6 percent for the conservatives. Reacting to Samaras’s speech late on Saturday, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis described the New Democracy leader as «unrepentant» and accused the conservatives of «criminal inactivity…that resulted in the country being discredited internationally and reaching the brink of disaster.»