PM faces resistance on DEKO cuts

Prime Minister George Papandreou could be on a collision course with several members of his government over plans to cut costs at state-run enterprises, especially public transport companies, despite it being one of the main aims set out in the 2011 budget that the government submitted to Parliament yesterday. The economic plan foresees spending cuts and tax hikes worth some 14 billion euros in order to reduce the public deficit to 7.4 percent of gross domestic product by the end of next year. This will involve spending being slashed in a number of government departments. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said that money would also be saved at public companies. The Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), for instance, is almost 11 billion euros in debt. The content of the 2011 budget was discussed during a Cabinet meeting yesterday and Papandreou indicated that it must be one of his government’s priorities to stop the hemorrhaging of money at public transport companies and other similar enterprises, known as DEKOs. «They are absorbing a very large part of the sacrifices being made by Greeks,» he told his ministers. Earlier in the week, the premier had told the BBC that he did not want to see any public sector employees fired in 2011 so Greece can keep to the targets it has been set by its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. The government is examining using transfers to other civil service jobs as a way of removing workers from highly paid positions at OSE and other companies. However, several ministers at the Cabinet meeting yesterday appear to be strongly opposed to efforts to make drastic cuts at these firms. «A different operational plan has to be drawn up for each DEKO,» said Labor Minister Louka Katseli. «We should not impose the troika’s decisions across the board.» Deputy Foreign Minister Mariliza Xeno-giannakopoulou backed Katseli, who also received support from Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas. «We have to stop this damaging discussion about possible job losses at DEKOs,» he said. «The troika has not asked for them, even in the case of OSE.» Reppas, who has suggested public transport ticket prices will go up next year, said he would be in favor of limiting the debts that each public enterprise can amass.