PM clashes with opposition in Parliament over privatisations

Prime Minister George Papandreou clashed in Parliament on Friday with two leaders of smaller opposition parties during a debate of the government's ambitious and EC-ECB-IMF-mandated privatisation programme. In a tabled question to the prime minister, the head of the left-wing Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group, Alexis Tsipras, accused Papandreou of "selling-off" state assets and of placing the country under the control of the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' "based on an organised plan" as well as "of playing the game of the Americans and local oligarchy".

In a sharp reply, Papandreou countered that he did not need to "prove his political credentials" and that the memorandum agreement for loans to Greece saved the country from bankruptcy and the sort of scenes and instability that had occurred in Argentina.
Tsipras, however, retorted that Argentina's collapse was brought about precisely because it had resorted to the IMF and adopted what he termed as "neoliberal policies".
"You are selling off PPC, EYDAP, EYATh and OPAP. This is a major scandal in the sense that the country does not have the possibility of standing on its feet, even if it should recover," Tsipras claimed.
He also criticised plans to privatise Agricultural Bank of Greece, where two thirds of Greek land were currently mortgaged and Hellenic Post Bank.
In answer to the charges, Papandreou said that despite selling its majority share, the state will not relinquish control of strategically important public utilities, such as the Public Power Corp. (PPC) and the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP.

He stressed that the government aims at "strategic alliances" that will benefit the country and its citizens rather than small, privileged groups.
Papandreou was also replying to a questions tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.
Responding to Karatzaferis' claim that "half the cabinet" opposes the prospect of reducing state control of these public utilities to less than 51 percent, Papandreou emphasised that he "demands that ministers speak their mind during Cabinet meetings" and invited him to pay attention to what the ministers were saying rather than just reading headlines.
He linked a decision to sell of a tranche of the PPC that would reduce the state's majority share to less than 51 percent with "a major shift that has been decided and is being carried out in the country's energy policy in favour of renewable energy sources".
Greece had to depend on its own strength and its own strategic advantages and was therefore changing the country's energy orientation through private investments in renewable energy sources that would amount to nearly 16.5 billion euro in the next few years, Papandreou stressed. He said this would be equivalent to the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the RES sector.
The prime minister went on to announce upcoming legislation to generate power using natural gas and the deregulation of the natgas market.
He stressed that the 17 percent stake in the PPC that the government intends to sell "is not measured with strictly fiscal indices, nor are we talking about bargain prices".
"We are not relinquishing control but seeking strategic alliances for the country," Papandreou added, inviting PPC trade unionists to support the government's plans.
Karatzaferis, on his part, insisted that relinquishing the state's majority share would be unwise and pointed out that the entry of private investors in other countries had led to a tripling of electricity rates.
He also urged the prime minister to act seriously and not under pressure, which would lead to a sell-off, noting that it had taken Greece 60 years to build the PPC and at great cost.

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