Obituary: George Yennimatas

George Yennimatas, politician: born Athens 30 June 1939; Member, Greek Parliament, 1981-94; Minister of Interior 1981-84; Minister of Health 1984- 87; Minister of Labour 1987-89; Minister of Finance 1989-90; Minister of National Economy and Finance 1993- 94; married Kakia Vergou (died 1993; two daughters); died Athens 25 April 1994.

GEORGE YENNIMATAS was one of Greece's most popular and highly respected politicians.

Following the Socialists' electoral victory last autumn Yennimatas requested the twin portfolio of National Economy and Finance in full knowledge that he was dying of lung cancer and therefore signing his last political testament. Some questioned the wisdom of the Greek Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, in appointing a sick man to the tasks of implementing an austerity programme, halting inflation, curbing tax evasion and shrinking Greece's huge budget deficit. Yet Yennimatas was probably the only senior Pasok politician who could convince both the unions and the average taxpayer of the need for stringent, long-lasting economic measures.

During his short stint in office he managed to complete the 1994 budget and to negotiate an important tax reform bill with union leaders which was due to be voted on in Parliament this week. He also succeeded in rolling over the government's 1993 fiscal deficit by persuading banks and the public to buy government securities and Treasury bills. He may have succeeded where others would almost certainly have failed exactly because of his failing health: both friends and foes realised he was striving for an honest deal irrespective of political plaudits.

The son of a financial adviser to the Greek government, Yennimatas trained as a civil engineer and became involved with politics while a student at the Athens Polytechnic. In 1973 he became a founding member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) and remained from then on a close personal friend of Andreas Papandreou. First elected to parliament in 1981, he served the Socialist government as Interior Minister (1981-84) and Health Minister (1984-85). He continued in the latter post after the elections of 1985 and became Labour Minister in 1987. Following Pasok's defeat in the elections of 1989, Yennimatas was appointed Party Whip, but was called upon to join the Zolotas Cabinet of National Unity in 1989-90 as Minister of

Finance.

Three of the four ministerial positions held by Yennimatas became associated with national political crusades which changed everyday life. As Interior Minister he laid the foundations for local government in Greece; as Health Minister he overhauled, reorganised and expanded the country's national health system (ESY); and as National Economy Minister he attempted to halt Greece's financial decline and to meet EC standards for healthy growth. Although the success of his economic reforms remains inconclusive, their merits are not disputed even by his right-wing political adversaries.

Yennimatas consistently polled well in elections and was widely respected for his genuine commitment to social causes, his sense of fair play, his tenacity and skill in political argument. He had suffered from lung cancer for the past two and a half years and was devastated by the death of his wife, Kakia, also from cancer, last September. His funeral, held yesterday in Athens with prime-ministerial honours, was attended by thousands.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living