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08 May, 2001
Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, speaking to reporters at the end of the Euro group and ECOFIN Council meeting here Monday, underlined Greece's improved economic performances in relation to the Euro zone's average.
Papantoniou referred to the difference in growth rates which is widening in Greece's favor (it was 4.1 percent compared to 3.4 percent in the euro zone in 2000, while in 2001 Greece reaches a little below 5 percent as against 2.8 percent for the euro zone), the increase of investments (Greece has an 11.7 percent increase compared to the euro zone's 4.2 percent), real salaries (the increase in Greece was 2.6 percent compared to 0.7 percent in the euro zone) and its budget where Greece will have a surplus of 0.5 percent this year as against the euro zone in its entirety which shows a deficit of 0.7 percent.
"For the first time regarding public finances Greece is in a better position compared to the European average," he said and termed the phenomenon natural to a certain degree attributing it to "Greece's anxiousness to near euro zone countries in terms of living standards and income."
During the economy minister's discussion on defining general economy policy orientations, Papantoniou agreed with his British counterpart Gordon Brown that targets should concern deficits but not the level of public expenditures in particular.
"What interests the EU are deficits. If some country has slightly increased expenditures or slightly decreased taxes compared to another, it is a national issue which should be decided on the basis of the political and social priorities of every government," he said.
On the question of Greece, he said there are great needs for investment and social expenditures which means, as he said, that for some years there will be increase rates for social expenditures which will be above the EU average. He added, however, that it would be consistent regarding the fiscal deficit.
The ECOFIN meeting also focused on the issue of the labor indicator's mobility to facilitate the movement of working people and to achieve the better utilization of the labor force at European level.
Source: Athens News Agency