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22 December, 2001
Parliament in the early hours of Saturday passed the budget for 2002 after a five-day debate.
Voting in favor of the budget were 155 deputies, with 143 voting against in the 300-member house. Two parliamentarians were absent in the roll-call vote.
The growth-oriented budget forecasts a rise in gross domestic product of 3.8 percent in 2002, double the European average despite an adverse global climate.
The budget also anticipates a surplus for the second straight year, and the public debt is due to maintain its gradual decline.
The budgets of ministries implementing social policy are to rise, with those involved in public order seeing an increase of 20 percent.
Simitis says 2002 budget opens new possibilities:
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the 2002 state budget, opens new possibilities for the Greek economy.
"This budget is a budget of a new era. The budget of euro opens new possibilities. I believe that the Greek economy will go ahead even better because it will be able to utilize this advantage. The voting of the budget by Parliament shows that there is a common faith and a common will to utilize the advantages created by our policy up to now," he told the press after the vote.
Closing earlier the five-day debate in the house, Simitis referred mainly to the introduction of the euro on January 1.
Simitis hailed the event which he said marked a new era, and called on all parliamentary parties to vote the budget, the first in euro, and express the spirit of the times.
He said that in this way "we will express actively the broad consensus which exists in society and we will show the people a strong and all-party political volition for the future."
The prime minister also referred to the political leaders who contributed to the country's course and particularly to late president Constantine Karamanlis who "turned Greece towards the European Community" and to late prime minister Andreas Papandreou who "led the country with security and vision, gave Greece to Greeks and inspired in the people strength and pride."
Referring to the budget, the prime minister said that the national objective was for a real and social convergence and underlined that by 2004, and on the basis of the present rate of growth, it is expected that the gap with the other European countries will be covered.
He added that the budget will secure the gains of the past years and further strengthen the Greek economy and make the country stronger and more competitive. He further said that the budget will favor entrepreneurial initiative and effectively combat unemployment while it will reinforce social solidarity.
Economy minister shows off Greece's successes with EU, during budget debate:
Greece has made important steps, there is, however, need for further improvement, National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said in Parliament during the final session of discussions over the budget for 2002.
He called on the Eurobarometer data, published lately, showing that Greece was not ranking last anymore in sectors such as reliability and services rendered in transport, water works, energy, while in some cases it has done better than nine or 10 of the Union's 15 member-states.
He then spoke of the necessity of structural changes, saying that the government was resolved to solve the issue of the Olympic Airways and noted the successful listing of the Public Power Corp. in the Athens Stock Exchange. He provided the negative example of Argentina stressing the need for the timely structural changes.
He underlined that the government's aim with the 2002 budget was to improve the country's employment record.
ND leader Karamanlis says budget conceals massive debts:
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis, speaking in Parliament on Friday night during the debate on the 2002 state budget, said that the budget "concealed debts totalling five trillion drachmas" and that the budget was "up in the air."
Karamanlis, who launched a stinging attack against the government, said that Greece's accession to the Economic Monetary Union (EMU) was due to a positive international conjuncture, from revenue from EU funds, 87 additional tax burdens and to "creative accounting."
KKE General Secretary says working people to become poorer:
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, speaking in Parliament on Friday during the debate on the 2002 state budget, charged that the manner with which the government is taxing the people will "further increase the number of people and families which will not be able to make ends meet."
Papariga also criticized the government's agricultural and educational policy.
Coalition leader says budget is hostile towards working people:
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said during the debate in Parliament on the 2002 state budget that the budget was hostile against the working people and social reforms.
Source: Athens News Agency