In the first cabinet meeting of the year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras presented a triumphant overview of his three years in power and depicted the government as the protector of the poor, with which he said Syriza wants to maintain its “privileged relationship.
“We are completing the process of the third fiscal adjustment programme evaluation, which we agreed to under the well known conditions that prevailed in the summer of 2015. Hence, we are closing a major, lengthy cycle of supervision that began in May, 2010, when our country was shut out of the financial market,” the PM told his cabinet, in a meeting that was broadcast on national television.
‘Our bailout was the best ever’
In 2015, we agreed to a programme that cannot be compared to the two previous ones. In the negotiations, we took into account not only fiscal issues, but also society,” he declared.
“Everything indicates that we are in the last stretch. The fiscal adjustment has been completed. In 2017, we overreached our primary surplus target for the third year in a row, and the third evaluation is closing without adding a single euro in new fiscal measures. This is the first time in eight years that this has happened,” Tsipras said.
Definitive end of supervision in August?
The PM argued that increased international trust in the Greek economy is apparent from the returns of Greek bonds. We have entered a course which shows that the return of our country to the markets after the end of the loan agreement in August will not be mere rhetoric, he said.
He said the overarching target in August is to definitively finish with the bailout programmes and end the conditions of fiscal oversight that Greece entered in 2010.
Attempts to salvage leftist credentials
“2018 will be the year we shall expedite and deepening our own political positions and initiatives, the year we shall make clearer our class-based imprint and our political orientation,” Tsipras said.
Referring to the lower income strata, he said the aim is “to support a grand social alliance with the social strata with which the government seeks to establish a privileged relationship, to express and represent them”.
The PM said his government’s “confessed bias” in favour of the poor does not divide, but instead unites all citizens, all social forces in a unified plan for growth, “because there cannot be viable growth without a reduction of inequalities”.
Opposition on the attack, charges hypocrisy
New Democracy led the attack on the prime minister’s speech, with spokesperson Maria Spyraki essentially accusing the prime minister of superlative hypocrisy.
“Mr Tsipras does not live on an island [where the VAT tax was hiked this year]. He does not have a family with three or more children [whose social benefits are being cut this year]. He is not paid with the special pay scale [of policemen and other categories of state employees whose wages will be cut]. Moreover, he of course does not needing a heating fuel subsidy [which was also cut],” Spyraki said.
“We refer him [the PM] to the budget that he passed, which for 2018 saddles taxpayers with 1.9 billion euros in new [austerity] measures,” the ND spokesperson concluded.
Pasok spokesperson Pavlos Christidis was equally sarcastic. “Mr Tsipras is promoting himself as the most obedient memorandum-era prime minister. What will remain of his tenure however is the handover of state assets, impoverishment, auctions of seized properties, and the noose he tied around the neck of the Greek people for many decades.”