Parliament approves controversial tax and pension reform bill

The coalition government’s controversial tax and pension system reform bill was approved by Parliament on Sunday evening…

The coalition government’s controversial tax and pension system reform bill was approved by Parliament on Sunday evening, with the support of the 153 SYRIZA and Independent Greeks MPs.

Prior to the critical vote, the government and opposition debated over the controversial bill. The Minister of Labor Giorgos Katrougalos defended the bill, claiming that it streamlines the pension system and that under the ‘zero deficit clause’ the cuts on supplementary pensions would be over 20%. Mr. Katrougalos also accused the opposition parties of not submitting any alternative proposals and asked them to clarify whether they are in favor of pension cuts or raising contributions.

In his speech, the leader of the main opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated his call for early general elections and accused the coalition government of opportunism and lying. Mr. Mitsotakis’ criticism focused on the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos, stressing that the pension reform will perpetuate the existing problems, rather than address them. He further claimed Greece is in need of a different policy mix, namely tax cuts, budget cuts and a fair distribution of the burden.

In response, the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated that the government is working for the best possible agreement with the country’s creditors and underlined that his aim is to see Greece recover and break away from vested interests. The PM repeated that there will be no cuts in main pensions and challenged the main opposition to clarify what he means by ‘budget cuts’, namely wage cuts and dismissals.

Later on PM Tsipras accused Mr. Mitsotakis of calling for elections in order to save his ‘friends and media moguls’ because the current government is tackling corruption. The Prime Minister underlined that the government is being attacked by systemic media over its efforts to bring justice and order to the operation of the media.

The leader of the River Stavros Theodorakis accused the coalition government of being conservative and embracing everything that bankrupted the country. Mr. Theodorakis claimed that the government is repeating the same mistakes and argued that it has no plan for growth or production.

Similarly, the secretary general of the Communist Party Dimitris Koutsoumpas warned that the Greek people will not legitimize the controversial bill and that claimed that the SYRIZA-led government is merely completing the ‘dirty work’ that the previous governments failed to do.

Criticism also came from for former PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos, who stressed that the coalition government will bring a fourth bailout agreement due to its handling of negotiations. The president of the Union of Centrists Vasilis Leventis on the other hand repeated his call for the formation of an ecumenical government with technocrats and noted that the pension reform bill is paving the way for private insurance.

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