Politics: PM refers to road map to 2013

Prime minister George Papandreou on Friday unveiled the philosophy of the "roadmap" for Greece for up to the year 2013, when his PASOK government's term in office expires, and indirectly rejected recent intense speculation of early general elections and restructuring of the Greek debt, during a presentation of the three-year Medium-Term Program for 2012-2015. The details will be announced after the Easter holiday.

On the state debt, Papandreou said that the immense debt was being faced, but the problem was solving it in depth, not through restructuring of the debt itself but through restructuring of the country, "and that is what we are doing with the road map".

The premier stressed that he is "absolutely determined" that the government will move ahead on the basis of the road map, and expressed certainty that "we will succeed", a certainty that stems from the Greek citizens' support for the government.

Papandreou made an extensive review of the government's work so far and its achievements in its 18 months in office, including the streamlining of the public finances which is continuing and is a top goal together with growth, investments and an efficient social state.

The road map, he continued, does not begin from a zero basis given that some things have already been achieved, but will be a step for further tackling the chronic distortions.

His government, the premier continued, responds to the mentality of "leave it for later" with "decisions and changes, now".

"We want a country that is autonomous, that looks to the future with confidence, and that is the battle we are waging despite unforeseeable circumstances and reactions by those who do not want anything to change," the premier stressed.

Papandreou further made a reference to incidents of violence and lawlessness, "which have no place in a democracy, and especially in a time of restructuring of the country", and called on the political forces to take a clear-cut position on those issues, without evasions.

His government's policy has succeeded much on two fronts, that of restoring confidence in the country and the implementation of extensive reform programs. "We achieved the largest deficit reduction in the history of Greece but also the European Union. At the same time, an unprecedented program of major changes is underway," the premier elaborated.

Papandreou explained that the detailed elements and timetables of the road map will be unveiled after the Easter holiday, to be followed by itemization of the program, which will then be put to dialogue and tabled in parliament for vote.

"We do not promise that a magical solution will be found in one day, but we have proven that we can succeed," he added.

On the debt, Papandreou stressed that its reduction "is not only numerical, since behind it are the deficits, and behind those are practices, mentalities and corrupt policies, which we are changing", adding that "the debt and the deficit will be tackled when we have changed the rationales and mentalities".

The premier noted that if by some magical way the debt was wiped out but other changes were not made, "in a short time we would again have big deficits and a bid debt", adding that the targets will be achieved through major changes, such as a radical change of the country's developmental planning.

This planning includes the exploitation of the state property and sale of equity stakes. The government is aspiring to the attraction of investments, which create strong economic alliances at international level. All these will be done on the basis of a real appraisal of the value of the state property, Papandreou continued, stressing that the strategic sectors will be controlled by the state in such a way to enable a comprehensive developmental planning.

"And all this, with full transparency," he added.

Papandreou said that the welfare state will be at the citizens' side, and pledged better health services and curbing of waste, adding that an immediate priority of the government is to boost the low pensions, despite the existing difficulties.

He further said that changes were also being advanced in the justice system as well as a change of the electoral law.

"We are putting order in the fiscal finances and creating a state that will be financed on its own steam," he added.

In a reference to state expenditures and revenues, Papandreou noted that state spending in 2009 was 53 percent of GDP, and the effort being made via the road map is to reduce the figure to 44 percent of GDP by 2015, back to the 2003 level, which is also the EU average. As for revenues, the target is to bring them up to 43 percent of GDP in 2015, back to the 2000 level, from the 38 percent they had dropped to.

The 'road map' is the road that Greece must follow to emerge from its present problems, Papandreou said, warning that the road proposed by other quarters would lead to isolation and bankruptcy "and that is why we reject it".

"We are trying to change the country, without consideration of the political cost," the premier said, adding that the beginning has been made, and it is now time to proceed to the creation of an even better Greece.

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