The year 2011 would be one of major reforms, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed while addressing the Cabinet on Friday. Noting that the onus for this effort will fall on individual ministries, he asked each minister to present a 'prioritised plan of action' for their area of responsibility by Saturday.
"We are not just on the right track. We are meeting, and even surpassing, our targets one by one," he told ministers, appearing confident that Greece would repeat this feat in 2011, as it had done in 2010. He asked the ministers to contribute so that this message was "multiplied" and was understood by the Greek people, in order to instill a sense of trust and confidence.
He also rejected criticism from certain news agencies that Greece had failed to meet deficit targets and stressed that, on the contrary, Greece had more than met its target of reducing the deficit by 5.5 percent, actually reducing this by 6 percent.
The prime minister conceded that the target of lowering the overall deficit to 8.1 percent had not been met, but he attributed this to Eurostat's decision to revise Greece's deficit upward by about 2 percent when further deficits hidden by the previous New Democracy government were discovered.
"It is the biggest reduction achieved by any country in a year," he underlined.
Papandreou also stressed that getting public finances in order was necessary condition but not the government's final goal, which was to change Greece.
He predicted that the changes that would be made in the coming period would be easier politically, since there would not be any further general reduction in wages and pensions. He did not rule out reactions to these changes, however, while expressing hope that all would be done in a "spirit of consensus".
Stressing that the onus now fell on each individual ministry, he asked the ministers to each present a set of prioritised proposals for their area of responsibility by Saturday, as well as placing all their other issues in order of priority, so that a time schedule for the implementation might be drawn up.
Regarding the economic crisis, he said that Europe would have nothing to fear if it acted decisively and without fatalism in its dealings with markets. Regarding the permanent European support facility that will be discussed at the EU summit in December, he said this would have to be a 'smart mechanism' capable to responding to the psychology of the markets.
He also stressed that the issue of Eurobonds that EU member-states could use to borrow would be a solution, either now or in the long-term, while stressing that Europe needed a clear policy on investments for growth.
Regarding ways to promote growth in Greece, Papandreou underlined this was not just a case of throwing money at projects but needed careful consideration of how this money was spent so as to change the production model and the quality of Greek products and services.
Greek people 'relieved of nightmare of default', PM tells Cabinet
The Greek people have been relieved of the nightmare of default, and "now we can look to the future with greater optimism", prime minister George Papandreou told a Cabinet meeting on Friday, during which he presented the results of Thursday's eurozone summit in Brussels.
"We are living in the biggest crisis of the past decades, but we achieved strong conditions of security," Papandreou said, adding: "We made the debt problem sustainable. I waged a struggle with self-sacrifice, and with criticism that was disproportionate to my own responsibility".
Papandreou described the summit decisions a "success for Greece", which he attributed to the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people, adding that the virtues of the Greek people were reaffirmed and the derogatory myths collapsed.
The premier spoke of his own personal wager, over which he had been at the receiving end of severe criticism this past period, adding that he waged the battle with his thoughts only on the everyday people.
Papandreou did express bitterness, however, that all this time Europe had not been listening to Greece which, though, succeeded in remaining standing and alive.
"We, as Greece, our doing our job and making sacrifices, which cannot be at the mercy of the markets nor the indecisiveness of Europe, and it was on this basis that we negotiated yesterday and the preceding period," the Greek premier said.
Papandreou further referred to main opposition New Democracy (ND) which, he said, "missed the historic opportunity to participate in the effort of the Greek people for exit from the crisis".
ND opted to sit on the sidelines of the battle and wagered on the country's failure, Papandreou added.