MPs slam aus­ter­ity plan

Gov’t comes un­der fierce crit­i­cism from own deputies in de­bate on midterm pro­gram

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment, and in par­tic­u­lar Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, came un­der heavy fire yes­ter­day dur­ing a heated dis­cus­sion by PASOK deputies of a new raft of aus­ter­ity mea­sures that are sched­uled to go be­fore Par­lia­ment in the next few days.

A session by a par­lia­men­tary work­ing group for eco­nomic af­fairs fea­tured ve­he­ment crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment’s midterm fis­cal pro­gram – which has been drafted by Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou – from sev­eral prom­i­nent deputies.

Some com­men­ta­tors noted that the rifts within PASOK had grown to such an ex­tent that a re­bel­lion was an in­creas­ingly dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.

Of the 70 deputies who ad­dressed the marathon session yes­ter­day, many did not fo­cus on just one as­pect of the midterm pro­gram but ex­pressed gen­eral crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment’s cen­tral poli­cies and choices.

Some of the fiercest crit­i­cism came from Vasso Pa­pan­dreou, a for­mer min­is­ter and head of Par­lia­ment’s eco­nomic af­fairs com­mit­tee. “There is no plan, just as there was no plan last year,” she said, claim­ing that cur­rent ef­forts by the gov­ern­ment to slash spend­ing and raise much-needed rev­enue would soon lose mo­men­tum. Pa­pan­dreou also ac­cused the fi­nance min­is­ter of treat­ing her “like a fool” when she vis­ited him in his of­fice in Novem­ber 2009, the month af­ter na­tional elec­tions that brought PASOK back to power, and asked him to take mea­sures to cor­rect the econ­omy.

Some of the deputies that spoke ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the pos­si­bil­ity of the midterm pro­gram – which fore­sees wide­spread tax in­creas- es and se­vere cuts to pub­lic spend­ing – be­ing put to a ref­er­en­dum, an idea that has been floated by Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou.

Vet­eran PASOK deputy Costas Geitonas called for the pro­posal to be taken off the ta­ble, say­ing that this would be a “pre­cur­sor to gen­eral elec­tions.”

An­other So­cial­ist law­maker, Paris Kouk­oulopou­los, claimed that the gov­ern­ment risked “los­ing touch with re­al­ity.” “The only two things we have achieved are to drain bank de­posits and fill city squares with peo­ple,” he re­marked.

De­spite in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion to the mea­sures laid out in its midterm pro­gram, the gov­ern­ment – un­der pres­sure from its in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors to push ahead with re­forms – aims to sub­mit it in Par­lia­ment by the end of this week.

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