(September 20-21, 2007)--Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis demanded immediate results from his newly elected Cabinet yesterday and called for unity as he gets ready to implement difficult reforms with a slim parliamentary majority. He told the first meeting of his new team that he would be closely monitoring the work of all areas of the government, while in the framework of the restructuring of the new governmental scheme, changes would be made to the general secretariats and special secretariats in the ministries in order to streamline them, adding that among the fundamental governmental priorities was the creation of a more efficient state that would stand by the citizens' side, particularly in times of crisis. " Absolute coordination, solid steps, and two-way communication with society and the wider social alliances " were necessary, the premier said.
Karamanlis noted that the government's priorities include the guarantee of fiscal adjustment, increasing jobs, on the basis of training, growth and employment; and the revision of the social security and pension system, which he said was an issue of major importance that concerns the entire society. Focusing on the social security and pension system sector's reform, he said that the government is "opening up a responsible dialogue with all the political forces and all the social partners, without postponements and delays," and committed himself to the introduction of a minimum national pension, above the poverty level, as of 2009.
Karamanlis stressed that a next step would also be the commencement of dialogue on reform of the administrative structure of the country as well, noting that other priorities were the upgrading of public education at all levels, the strategy for a digital Greece, research and technology.
On the revision of the Constitution, the premier said that the responsibility and authority lay with the entire parliament, and that it was his choice that everything possible would be done in order to achieve the broadest consensus.
A Balanced Budget by 2010
Greece is determined to fix its ailing pension system and stay the course of fiscal consolidation, aiming at a balanced budget by 2010, reappointed Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said. Outlining the government's main policy goals in its new term, the minister said that, along with reforms, sustaining robust economic growth and job creation will be top goals.
Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Minister Georgos Souflias said he supports proposed changes to Article 24 of the Constitution allowing for the legal reclassification of forest areas. Souflias, also said that speeding up completion of the land register, policies vis-a-vis climate change as well as a series of major highway projects will top the agenda at the ministry over the next four years.
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met with Economy and Finance minister George Alogoskoufis. The latter told reporters that the government's immediate priority was the drafting of the 2008 budget. The second target, Alogoskoufis noted, was to pass the bill that has already been tabled in parliament on the utilization of the investment subsidies under the EU's 4th Community Support Framework, based on the National Strategic Reference Framework covering the period 2007-2013. He further stressed that the first bill to be tabled in parliament will concern the fight against tax evasion, adding as well that the government's announcement on abolition of the inheritance tax and all taxes on 'first home' purchases will be implemented as soon as possible.