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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 173,000 132,834 117,200 27
GNI per capita
 US $ 13,720 11,660 11,430 45
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Greece


Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)

In the ancient world fire was seen as a purifying force. One just has to think of the flaming torch of the Olympics. 

Well, Greece has been through horrendous fire recently. It remains to be seen if it will prove purifying. 

Following the devastating fires of August, many will be watching to see if the Karamanlis administration takes action to close the legal loopholes that have encouraged arson by would-be developers. In the past, fires have often been the prelude to new construction. But with unprecedented damage this time around, the public is in no mood to tolerate business as usual. 

Karamanlis re-elected 
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called early elections in August, six months before the end of his government's mandate. His party, New Democracy, fared better in the September 21st poll than its poor handling of the crisis perhaps deserved. 

It now has a slim majority, with 152 seats in the 300-seat parliament -- a loss of 13 seats since 2004. In addition one of its distinguished mernbers has been elected as the President of the parliament, meaning the ND overall majority is only one, which almost certainly indicates that this parliament will not run its full course.

Revamped government 
Karamanlis says he wants immediate results from his reshuffled cabinet, which includes several new faces. Although Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and other key members kept their posts, others have been replaced in a bid to inject new momentum and win back public support. 

''I will be closely watching the work done by every ministry,'' Karamanlis said. He also warned that deputy ministers now needed direct approval to make public statements. "Too much television, too many statements, too much public speaking is seriously harmful. Measure and much caution are necessary," the prime minister said. 

Although his party saw its strength in parliament trimmed, Karamanlis stressed his determination to push through his agenda. Initiatives aimed at streamlining bureaucracy and reducing costs have run into opposition from unions and the left, and Karamanlis had hoped the elections would bring him a strong show of support from the public at large. Instead, New Democracy received a weaker mandate from a disenchanted electorate. 

Many analysts are sceptical about prospects for change. "The election campaigns made it clear that the parties are not willing to deal with the uncertain present," the daily Kathimerini wrote. "Both New Democracy and the left wing PASOK kept their cards close to their chests when it came to telling voters what are the clear measures that would increase wages or reduce the cost of living, while creating a fairer job market for the young, women in particular." 

According to Transparency International, fighting corruption is one of the major areas in which the government will have to demonstrate progress. The prime minister needs to restore New Democracy's credibility, which was recently undermined because of a pensions fund scandal. More than 50 people, mostly officials at state pension funds, banks and brokerages, may face charges of fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion. 

According to Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, the government's immediate priority is the drafting of the 2008 budget. Next on the list is passage of a bill on the use of investment subsidies under the EU's 4th Community Support Framework. 
The first bill to be tabled in parliament will concern the fight against tax evasion, Alogoskoufis told reporters. The government also has said it wants to move forward with abolition of the inheritance tax, as well as taxes on first home purchases.

Dimitris Sioufas elected new President of Parliament
Dimitris Sioufas of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party was elected president of the 300-member unicameral Hellenic Parliament on September 27th with 158 votes for and 141 blank votes, while only one MP was absent. In a statement immediately after the result was announced, Sioufas pledged to be a "President of all Parliament, all the wings, all the deputies".

An MP from Karditsa who served as development minister under the previous government, Sioufas was the candidate nominated by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for the parliament presidency.

Outlining his plans during his term in the third-highest office in Greece after the President of the Republic and the prime minister, Sioufas said he intended to introduce changes to Parliament regulations that would allow visiting heads of state and government and other distinguished foreigners to directly address the Greek Parliament.

He also outlined plans to further upgrade the annual Youth Parliament and to begin planning for the creation of a new and modern Parliament building equipped with necessary infrastructure at another location.

The former minister also emphasised the Parliamentary diplomacy would be among his priorities and referred to the destruction wrought by the mega-fires that swept Greece in August, saying that the "Parliament of the Hellenes will be creatively present" in efforts for the recovery of these areas.

There followed a hand-over ceremony, in which Sioufas took over from his predecessor Anna Psarouda-Benaki and stressed that, in doing so, he became "even more aware of the magnitude of my responsibilities and my mission".

The parliament plenary convened again in the afternoon to elect the House's five parliamentary vice-presidents, which are distributed among the three top parties, with the first three parliamentary vice-presidential positions going to the ruling ND party, the fourth position going to main opposition PASOK and the fifth going to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

Dimitris Sioufas, a lawyer, was born in 1944 in Ellinopyrgos, Karditsa prefecture. He was first elected to parliament in 1981, and served as deputy minister of Health, Welfare and Social Insurance in the New Democracy government of Constantine Mitsotakis from August 1991 to October 1993.

In April 2000 he was elected Secretary of the ND Parliamentary Group (up to the March 2004 general elections), nominated by the then main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Karamanlis.

With ND's assumption of the government after the March 2004 elections, he was appointed Development minister, serving in the post from March 2004 to September 2007, just ahead of the latest general elections in which ND was re-elected to power.

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