Greek PM says new cabinet to focus poor, scandals

Costas Karamanlis sacked his finance minister on Wednesday and injected new blood into his government.

Greek PM says new cabinet to focus poor, scandals

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday his new cabinet will make a fresh start with a special focus on the poor in a bid to boost ratings hit by riots, scandals and economic troubles.

Karamanlis sacked his finance minister on Wednesday and injected new blood into his government, which has hit the lowest point in years in opinion polls, largely on discontent with corruption and economic policies as the world crisis bites.

"We seek a new dynamic," he said after the new cabinet was sworn in. "There are no easy solutions, we are aware of the difficulties but we are determined to succeed."

His conservative New Democracy party swept to power in 2004 but was soon hit by scandals -- from wire-tappings and overpriced government bonds sold to state pension funds, to suspect land swaps between the state and a rich monastery.

It won re-election last year with a slim majority and has since seen ratings drop over tough economic policies. Two weeks of riots after the Dec. 6 shooting of a teenager were fuelled by mounting public anger.

Karamanlis made clear citizens' concerns would now be a priority, listing people's everyday problems and the concerns of youth, health and education above the global financial crisis.

His former finance minister George Alogoskoufis was blamed for policies that showed more concern for the rich than the poor and Karamanlis was keen to change that image before any election, analysts say.

"We are determined to stick to our principles, especially those concerning everyday problems and citizens' immediate needs," Karamanlis said.

Success will hinge on the new finance minister, Yannis Papathanassiou, 55, who faces the tough task of balancing budget revenue needs with measures to help the poor as the Greek economy slows down.

"The prime minister sacked cabinet members who obviously failed in their areas and those implicated in scandals," wrote the conservative Kathimerini in an editorial. "The new cabinet is a big bet for Karamanlis."

But opposition parties slammed the premier for what they said was a facelift that lacked substance, with main policies remaining the same.

"The painful reality of Greek citizens' everyday life can not be 'reshuffled'," main socialist opposition PASOK, which is leading opinion polls, said in a statement. "The government can not prolong its life, despite these efforts."

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 15:53
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