Showing again just how fragile Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition is, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis has challenged his partners, PASOK, to come up with another way to raise 40 million euros if they persist in their demand that the government drop a 25 euro hospital admission fee – which the Socialists had backed 100 percent.
PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, who was made Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister by Samaras after dropping his objection to the firing of state workers at the national broadcaster ERT that was closed down, also barked briefly about the partial lifting of a ban on mortgage foreclosures his party had put in place in a previous government but gave in on that as well.
Venizelos has repeatedly voiced public objections to a number of austerity measures the government is imposing before going along with every one of them, leading critics to say he’s playing a populist card and trying to have it both ways. PASOK is floundering at 5 percent in the polls and unless it agreed to alter its principles to join the coalition, Venizelos would be an irrelevant, powerless back bencher.
“We don’t have to argue. If PASOK says that the measure, which has been approved twice in Parliament, should not be enforced…it must propose other fiscal measures to offset the lost revenue,” Georgiadis, a member of New Democracy, in challenging Samaras’ own Deputy Premier to offer an alternative.
The combative minister, who relishes tangling with critics, defended the measure, saying that it was “very logical” and that it would help provide health services to the poor even though many of them don’t have 25 euros to pay for admission.
Georgiadis added that the 40 million euros the government expects to raise from the measure would be reaped back into state hospitals to cover the medical costs of the poor, if the poor can afford to pay for the admission and then get the services back if they can.