The Greek Parliament ratified in the early hours of Thursday the 2011 state budget in a roll call vote which produced 156 votes in favour and 142 against. Out of the 300 Parliament deputies, 298 participated in the roll call vote just after midnight in a nationally televised session held to consider the draft 2011 state budget.
European Union officials on Thursday welcomed the ratification, by a majority of MPs in the Greek Parliament, of the 2011 budget and the fiscal consolidation measures included in the legislation.
“We welcome the fulfilment of Greece’s international obligations,” Christina Arrigo, a representative of the European Commission, told reporters.
Prime Minister George Papandreou, addressing Parliament on Wednesday night shortly before the roll call vote on the 2011 state budget, stressed that “I declare myself more optimistic than ever for Hellenism and Greece. In 2012 we shall enter a growth orbit and in 2013, riddance from the memorandum. The painful measures are now behind us.”
Papandfreou added that “as we have denied the local and international Cassandras of disaster, in the same way we shall deny them until they leave us alone, until they realise that this government, these people, do not bow and do not succumb.”
Papandreou referred to “myths” which, as he said weaken the effort for the recovery of the country’s prestige and sink Greek society in misery and fatalism. He added that one myth wants the crisis to be an international one, a capitalist one which is irrelevant with Greek reality.
“Both are valid,” the prime minister said, “the crisis found Greece in a state of collapse, because we did not do what we should have done for years.”
He further said that another myth considers bankruptcy to be inevitable. “There is no discussion which is more corrosive, more dangerous and unfair than that which some are maintaining: We found,ourselves on the verge of bankruptcy, we passed through hell in 2010, but we stood up. We are facing the issue of the debt with prudence, systematically, in an organised way and with careful negotiations, such as for the extension of the repayment.”
Papandreou also referred to Greek responsibilities saying: “Must we blame the IMF? Did we not have responsibility for the corruption of the National Health System (ESY). For the unbelievable bureaucracy, the clientele relations, the lack of regional development, the fact that we created an agriculture depending on subsidies without being competitive, that our universities are unacceptably low in the international rating, that our islands lack drainage, refuse dumps, places of recreation.”
The prime minster underlined that the government’s top priority in 2011 is “a state at the servive of the citizen” with electronic Citizen Serving Centres, the citizen’s card, a unified salary scale, a card for the registration of receipts.
Lastly, Papandreou pointed out that “we shall do everything so that this crisis will not deal a blow at the poorest. We shall exhaust all margins in cooperation with the local administration bodies (OTA), the society of citizens, even with the Church, in this direction.”
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the 2011 state budget, appealed to the government to change its policy now.
“We shall not going to give consensus to this policy mixture. We shall not become accomplices on the path of bankruptcy that you have imposed,” he added.
Samaras stressed that the ruling PASOK party “baptized the memorandum as a one-way path to cover its historic inability and its recent responsibilities,” underlining that the 2011 budget “is the mirror of PASOK’s inability to handle the crisis.”
The ND leader said that today, on Christmas of 2010, “we are experiencing a deep crisis which is rocking society and reversing planning,” while pointing out that “there are two truths, the one that the government does not admit, meaning that the memorandum policy does not overcome the problem, and on the other that hope and a different perspective exist.
Samaras further said that since the beginning of the year the government ‘degraded the country abroad by advertising its corruption” and chose a perspective that was neither a one-way path of salvation nor did it negotiate it as toughly as it could, as other countries did and particularly Ireland recently.
He also charged that the government, while speaking of extravagance, cut back the pensions of low pension earners, or cut the bonuses for large families so that domestic devaluation can be achieved.
“If the government wants to implement the different mixture, that leads to recovery we are here, but this does not mean consensus for the memorandum, but consensus for a policy that leads to an exit with recovery and growth,” the ND leader said.
Lastly, Samaras stressed the need for a speedy change in policy “because the country cannot live with the dissolution of society and the paralysis of the economy,” and pointed to the need for initiatives in the sectors of education, health, defence and infrastructures.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, addressing Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the 2011 state budget, said that “the working people must realise the cause of the crisis and prepare themselves for a real war, a conscious one, a planned one, an organised one, which lead to the toppling of power.”
Papariga further stressed that “whatever policy mixture is used, neither will the debt and the deficits be tackled, nor will Greece become competitive, nor will it avoid bankruptcy” and added that the best solution “is the refusal to repay the debt which, however, only a labour-popular government can manage, without proceeding with further antipopular measures.”
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the 2011 state budget, said that Greece must request to have its debt transferred for a decade, stressing that “we are not experiencing the biggest crisis. We are experiencing a crisis. It needs correct and bold decisions which I do not see, however.”
Karatzaferis also pointed out that a change in course is necessary and added that “there must be a substantive understanding between the political leaders”, while placing responsibilities for the current economic state that Greece is in on both the ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) parties.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras, addressing Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the 2011 state budget, told the government “you are sinking Greece into the recession and the debt crisis, because the last thing that interests you and the troika and the economic oligarchy that supports you is the debt.”
Tsipras added that what interests the government are the “structural reforms, meaning the dismantling of the social state, the privatisation of public utilities and the abolition of every protection for the working people in the private sector.”
He added that the deficit may have been reduced by six units but recession increased by 4.2 percent “which means the soaring of unemployment”.