The Greek government promised to clean up corruption among politicians to restore public trust, but does not want to destabilise political life in the country as it struggles with a debt crisis that has shaken the euro.
Greece has been rocked by a series of major protests against government measures to cut the country's bulging deficit. A key demand of the protesters has been a crackdown on corrupt politicians they blame for mismanaging Greece's economy.
"What people want, and the government certainly shares that desire, is for there to be a clean-up both at the political and social level, so that relations between each other clear up and confidence is restored," government spokesman George Petalotis told a weekly newspaper published on Saturday.
For decades Greeks have tolerated endemic petty corruption and political graft. But the current debt crisis has forced the government to push through a painful austerity plan in return for 110 billion euros ($140 billion) in EU and IMF aid, and deliver on its promise to boost government transparency.
"There is such a climate that there is no option for the government other than moving ahead with fighting tax evasion and cleaning up politics," Konstantinos Routzounis, head of Kappa Research pollster, told Reuters.
Several political scandals, such as a land-swap deal that cost the state millions of euros, known as Vatopedi, and a bribes-for-contract affair involving German firm Siemens, rocked the country under the previous conservative government.
Parliamentary investigative committees are looking into the scandals and are expected to yield results by the end of May and June, respectively. The Justice Ministry also is promising to probe the income of top officials.
"Certainly, there is the necessary political will and consent that the Siemens and Vatopedi cases that hurt our country's political life are cleared out," Petalotis said.
"But in no case will we fall into the trap of penalising the country's political life," he added. "In no case will we allow blood to be shed in the name of popularism and petty politics."
The latest sign of government attempts to increase its revenue was the publication this week of the names of 68 high-earning doctors found guilty of tax evasion.
On Friday, the Finance Ministry said 178,000 wage earners misled authorities by under-reporting their income or failing to declare any last year. This meant the state lost valuable taxes on undeclared income of about 700 million euros.
ReutersLast Mod: 15 Mayıs 2010, 17:15