2003 budget proposed

The Cabinet yesterday adopted a draft budget proposal for 2003 by Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis which, despite its apparent neatness, is expected to undergo many changes in order to deal with a number of vague points. The draft foresees a modest 5.6-percent increase in spending and a 5.3-percent increase in revenues to 37.7 billion euros. «The 2003 budget is strongly growth-oriented,» Christodoulakis told a news conference after the meeting. He said growth would be boosted by a projected rise of 13 percent in public investment spending, from 5.2 percent this year. Growth is projected at 4.1 percent next year. Christodoulakis said that growth remained on target for 3.8 percent of GDP this year. But all this could be jeopardized by the turbulence that could follow a war against Iraq. Also, although there was consensus at yesterday’s meeting, many ministers are expected to press for more funds. Prime Minister Costas Simitis gave Christodoulakis the green light to hold a new round of contacts with his colleagues before finalizing, by November, the amount that each ministry will get. Simitis said the economy was moving in the right direction, but he warned, «We must watch our borrowing requirement, inflation, the price of fuel – especially in the case of a crisis in Iraq – and hospital debts.» He noted also that the new budget «guarantees the continuation of our course with security and steadiness.»