08 September, 2003
Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday ruled out early elections during the customary press conference given by the prime minister at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) each year, stressing that the government intended to exhaust its term.
On the package of social measures announced by the government the previous week, Simitis said that these were the result of a ''planned and decisive policy that has been evolving since 1996''. As to the funds that will cover the new benefits, he said these would come from a rise in GDP, which was expected to come to 10 billion euros in 2004.
He said that the measures would cost about 1.5 per cent of GDP, which was the same percentage as the tax and social insurance measures announced the previous year.
Simitis stressed that the government's goal for its current four-year term had been economic growth and stabilization, both of which had been achieved, so as to establish the conditions needed for convergence in all areas with the EU average.
Convergence had already been achieved in the social sector through the new measures, and the government had created the right conditions for convergence to be ''visible and possible'' in the third four-year term that would begin in 2004, he added.
Stressing that there was no cause for concern about how the measures would be financed and rejecting opposition claims that they would be paid for with borrowed money, Simitis also pledged that income from privatizations would be used exclusively for reducing public debt.
According to the prime minister, total social spending during 2004 could reach as high as 2.6 billion euros. The precise amount that will be added to the 1.7 billion euros earmarked for the 'social package' measures announced last week, however, will depend on revenue policy and decisions will be made through dialogue with social bodies.
The prime minister also made it clear that the government would not bow to pressure for more handouts. Commenting on the demands being made by specific groups, such as academics, doctors and teachers, he said that some were fair and would be met by the government but others were ''excessive and unjustified''.
Apart from foreign policy, major issues in the coming four-year term according to Simitis will be the Olympics Games, negotiations for the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) and convergence with the EU, including a decision on whether to expand the social state or not.
Referring to the process of inspecting the 'statement of means' declarations submitted by MPs, he said this would be completed by the end of 2003 so that the elections would not take place ''under the shadow'' of accusations of no transparency.
Regarding the bill for election law reform, particularly the inclusion of proposals such as the double ballot box and MP list, he said this would take its final form after dialogue on the proposed reforms was completed.
In response to other questions, he said he had no interest in either the post of Greek president or EU president and said he would consider a meeting with Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece if there were a specific agenda.
Source: Athens News Agency