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19 December, 1997
The Greek economy is entering the battle of competitiveness, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said during the budget debate in Parliament last night.
"In the last four years, we won the battle of stabilization, we are winning the battle of development, and now we must win the battle of competitiveness," he said, stressing that this required a restructuring of the labor market and privatization's, to be achieved through consensus.
The minister appealed for "self-restraint" by the social partners in their incomes claims in order to attain Maastricht criteria in the next two years.
"Our aim is to reach the 'finishing line' of convergence in 1998, by reducing the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP and inflation below 3 per cent, at 2.5 per cent, in order to claim our position in EMU early in 2000 and have the drachma enter the Euro on Jan. 1, 2001".
He announced that a policy of de-escalating taxes for businesses and low-income earners would begin in two or three years, while in the meantime, spending on social services would far exceed the projected inflation rate.
Source: Athens News Agency