New Start - New Opportunities - Major Changes - The Best from Greece

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Posted on: 14/Jan/2010

Change the Crisis to a New Opportunity and make a new start for Greece, said PM George Papandreou during the Press Conference on Wednesday, 13 January 2010.

New start, major changes now!

The year 2010 was the time for Greece to make a new start and major changes, Prime Minister George Papandreou underlined on Wednesday in a press conference held to mark the completion of 100 days since ruling PASOK was sworn in as the new government.

"It is now or never for deep change and to this dilemma we answer now," he told reporters, stressing that Greece was experiencing a crisis of unprecedented proportions, with the public debt and deficit at levels never seen before, one that extended beyond Greece's borders and threatened the country's credibility abroad.

He also underlined that this crisis was not just an external one but a symptom of deeper problems for which the way of governance was to blame.

"It is time to change everything, to turn the crisis into an opportunity. We have already shown that we are capable of doing this, that we can be leaders and not laggards," Papandreou underlined.

The prime minister identified the key problems facing the country as the "sick" state sector, rampant with corruption and wasteful spending, a system that undermined Greece's productivity, competitiveness and credibility, exposed the country to ridicule abroad and which was treated by a defeated resignation by its own citizens.

Papandreou underlined that the government was determined not to fall into the inertia of its predecessors and had already made important changes at every ministry, while several deep reforms were now in the process of being introduced.

Among these he listed the effort to establish a new taxation system, currently the subject of dialogue, that was due to be unveiled in its final form early next month and was designed to drastically reduce tax evasion and ensure a fairer and more equitable tax system.

Another major reform he cited concerned the social insurance system, where dialogue was due to end in April and sought to ensure the long-term viability of the system for next generations, and the public debate that was due to begin on a new election law that would address the deep problems of the political system and the undeclared money given to politicians.

The premier additionally emphasised a recently unveiled draft bill altering the 'architecture' of local government, with fewer and stronger municipalities that would reduce the cost of public administration and have a positive impact on public finances, transparency and accountability, as well as a bill for the integration of migrants by allowing them to acquire Greek nationality.

Reviewing his government's course during its first 100 days, he admitted that some mistakes had been made but stressed that the government was prepared to take corrective action when this proved necessary.

"It's only when you make no moves that you avoid mistakes," he added, "but we will not make the even greater mistake of inertia that allows events to pass you by, like our predecessors did."

Acknowledging that the issues the government intended to address would not be easy and would trigger reactions, especially among certain privileged groups, Papandreou promised that the government would not ignore these issues like the previous New Democracy government had done out of fear of the political cost.

Beyond such reactions, Papandreou continued, it was self-evident that Greeks were both ready and anxious to see changes made, to see a functioning state sector and that their money was not going to waste. He also stressed that the government was not afraid of criticism and welcomed debate as a chance for all voices to be heard.

"We are determined to do the things for which we were elected by Greek men and women. It is this that gives us the strength to not back down," he underlined, and urged everyone to join the "democratic front" in order to democratically restructure the country.



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