Athens.- Prime minister George Papandreou on Saturday chaired the first meeting of his ruling PASOK party’s newly-elected Political Council, during which he described the state of Greece’s economy as “tragic”, putting full and exclusive blame on the preceding New Democracy (ND) government and the policies it implemented over the last five years.
He also accused ND of concealing the real state of the economy “up to the last minute” before the October 4 general elections, that brought PASOK to power, and of speaking of a “cushion” for the budget without actually having ensured one.
Papandreou said that PASOK took over the country’s governance in one of the hardest times in its post-war history, and at the same time shouldered the responsibility of taking Greece out of a deep crisis and reviving its wheezing economy.
In order to do this, administration of authority is not sufficient, but it is necessary to proceed to deep changes and reversals so as to reach a “different Greece” through change of the manner of governance, the premier explained.
He further said that it is necessary for the government to prove its reliability on a daily basis, working hard on the country’s major needs. This, he added, was the philosophy behind the government’s plan for its first 100 days in office, which was designed precisely to face the immediate hardships caused to the citizens by the generalised crisis.
Despite the difficulties, however, Papandreou sent a message of optimism to the Greek society, stressing that this tough economic situation will be overcome, and pointed out three areas on which the government’s effort is focused: tidying up the economy, economic recovery, and a developmental prospect for the country.
Planning has been made so that all the commitments made by PASOK for its first 100 days in government will be met, Papandreou said, and referred to the steps it has already taken, “which show our determination to remain true to all our commitments”. As examples, Papandreou cited the social solidarity benefit, the abolition of the STAGE programs, the introduction of electronic deliberation, the containment of state overspending, the drastic reduction in state cars, the transformation of the National Statistics Service (ESYE) into an Independent Administrative Authority, and the commitment for transparency across the board through the release and uploading of all signatures on the internet, and noted that the relevant draft law has already been drawn up and will soon be put to public discussion.
Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, stressed that Greece has once again begun being ‘present’ abroad, putting forward its opinions and observations, participating in the decision-making, and once again picking up the thread from where it had left off in 2004 (when ND took office).
Indirectly replying to criticism that the government delayed in staffing the political positions in the public sector, Papandreou stressed that the procedure being followed for the staffing was a time-consuming and difficult one for the government, but one of major benefit for society. He pointed out the three main difficulties faced by the government in this effort. First, the non-existence of mechanisms in the public sector to undertake those procedures. Second, there is no list of all the agencies and political positions that are the responsibility of the government to assign. Third, a “bad tradition” of the past according to which those positions are staffed either by unknown individuals with degrees and academic qualifications but without experience, or by individuals with a political perception and experience. However, it was impossible to find both (credentials and experience) in the same individual. This combination is what the government is trying to do today, Papandreou explained.
In an interview with a weekly financial newspaper appearing on Saturday, Papandreou stressed that “we will not become a government in a state of hostage. If needed, we will clash to defend our positions and the just rights of the country”.
“Those who enjoy hefty salaries and receive large bonuses cannot demand of us that we cut the salaries of the working people and pensions,” he stressed, adding that “those who created the crisis have no right to want it to be solved today on the backs and at the expense of the many who are not to blame for it”.