Athens.- Strong words were exchanged in Parliament on Friday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras, following a question tabled by Tsipras for the prime minister on the economy.
Papandreou accused Tsipras of not making a constructive contribution as leader of a progressive party to the effort to restore the Greek economy, while SYRIZA’s chief countered by saying that Papandreou had no plan and urged him “to stop pretending to be prime minister” and to “take back the criminal and unjust measures”.
In his reply to Tsipras, the prime minister stressed that the government had been forced to choose between the collapse and salvation of the country. He admitted that the measures taken were unjust for many and said the government’s next priority would be to boost growth and create a social safety net.
“We took very difficult decisions but we did not have the luxury of ample time to directly change a system that had chronic problems and led the country’s credibility to a nadir. We want to turn this crisis into an opportunity. To rebuild the state and create a social safety net,” he said.
Restraining prices and boosting growth was the new front on which the government would speed up and intensify its efforts, he added.
Replying, Tsipras accused the prime minister of presenting Parliament with a “school essay” that was better suited to a pre-election period than a government that was eight months in power. He accused the government of having “given up” and said it “was unable to guarantee anything”.
“Are you aware how much your measures have set back Greek society? If you have a plan, have you not understood that we are going back to the 1950s and will need 20 years to surface from your choices,” Tsipras stressed.
According to SYRIZA’s leader, the measures had led to negative growth of -5 percent, while 1.5 million Greeks would be pushed below the poverty line by the end of the year. He particularly slammed the pension reforms, saying that they ‘dismantled’ the social insurance system and called on Papandreou to renegotiate with the EU.
Papandreou rejected Tsipras’ criticism, pointing out that the government had managed to avert a default by Greece and that the work done in the past six month could not be compared with the volume of work produced by the previous government.
He stressed that the country’s fiscal problem was only one side of the coin and that the problems will remain if the government only dealt with these issues. The government had managed to arrange the EU-IMF support mechanism and was now making a major effort to boost growth by establishing a “secure environment for enterprise, without bureaucracy and lack of transparency,” he added.
IMF ON SALARIES
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) official on Thursday clarified that the organisation has not recommended the abolition of the so-called “13th” and “14th” salaries in Greece’s private sector.
IMF foreign relations director Caroline Atkinson said such a proposal was not included in the programme agreed to with the Greek government in order to activate a eurozone-IMF support mechanism.
Nevertheless, Atkinson reiterated that the IMF believes there is an issue of the Greek economy’s competitiveness, something that Athens is dealing with, namely, by abolishing various restrictions on the operation of free trade in the country and opening up so-called “closed professions”.
In conclusion, she said the significance lies in Greece combating the twin specter of low competitiveness and high public debt, something that recently enacted measures aim to address and rectify.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy stressed here in Brussels on Friday that “all the countries of the EU agreed on the need for greater monetary discipline,” while underlining the “joint consensus” existing on the imposition of stricter economic and political sanctions on countries that systematically violate the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact.
The EU finance ministers and representataives of the European Central Bank met in Brussels on Friday under the chairmanship of Van Rompuy to discuss the institutional problems facing the EU and the eurozone, apart from the crisis period it is currently experiencing. It is the first working day of this “Action Group.”
As regards the German proposal on “controlled bankruptcy” of overindebted countries, that is interpreted by many as a form of forcing a country to leave the eurozone, Rompuy clarified in principle that no kind of controlled bankruptcy is anticipated for Greece, through the support mechanism, and in any case no such thing is anticipated by the European support mechanism for all the eurozone countries as well.
Addressing the first session of the action group on economic governance, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou raised, among other things, the issue of monetary adjustment and the better coordination of economic policies in the eurozone.
Papaconstantinou also showed indirect but clear support for Germany’s legislative inititives on the curbing of profiteering games against state titles on its territory.
Greece, Papaconstantinou added, expressed reservations on any possible debate regarding the Treaty’s reform, which, according to Greece, would not solve problems.
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