NEWS

Budget debate heats up

As a debate on the state budget for next year heated up in Parliament yesterday, the Finance Ministry welcomed a decision by the International Monetary Fund to release its share of a third tranche of support funding for the debt-ridden government and said it would push through structural reforms to secure a fourth tranche of aid expected in March. Meanwhile, Prime Minister George Papandreou heralded a five-point political plan aimed at getting the country on the road to recovery by 2013. The plan aims to radically overhaul public administration, boost growth and strengthen the country’s profile in the region. Addressing ruling PASOK’s parliamentary group yesterday, Papandreou defended his government’s tactic of accelerating the approval of key reforms through Parliament. «No one loves the emergency vote procedure but we are in a state of war,» the premier told ruling lawmakers. Papandreou also revealed that he was planning to gather one million signatures from across Europe to support the introduction of Eurobonds, a eurozone-wide debt issue, to spread risk. «This is an initiative for people, citizens, unions… in a conservative Europe where there are still people and citizens who truly want a Europe that goes forward,» the premier said. In Parliament meanwhile, Papandreou’s cabinet came under fire for its budget, which is to be voted on this Wednesday. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou described the budget as «consistent and coherent,» and stressed that consensus would be necessary for it to be implemented. «It will take courage and a minimum level of cooperation,» said Papaconstantinou. But the minister did not find the consensus he sought in Parliament. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a former minister of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, claimed that it was «completely impossible to execute.» Earlier in the day, the ministry issued a statement hailing the decision of the IMF to approve the release of 2.5 billion euros in loans to Greece as part of a third instalment of aid. A larger chunk of aid completing this third instalment is due for approval by Greece’s eurozone partners in January. According to the ministry’s statement, the IMF’s latest cash injection «is a recognition of the major progress made by our country.»