ATHENS – Greece’s beleaguered Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition said its agreement for more tough conditions in return for bailout monies will be offset by countermeasures.
Before the Feb. 20 meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, the government said it would not stop over “Red Lines” and impose more austerity but then said it would pass new measures.
SYRIZA and its partner, the marginal, far-right, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) called the new deal as one of “neutral fiscal balance” and explained that for every euro saved in new measures there would be cuts in other areas.
Media Minister Nikos Pappas ruled out further austerity for Greece, saying that an agreement with Eurozone ministers the previous day was for “zero sum fiscal interventions,” in another of the euphemisms Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftists use each time they make more concessions to international lenders.
Pappas, one of Tsipras’ closest advisers, told Antenna TV: “Everything will happen at once… the measures and countermeasures that will come into force after 2019 will be voted together,” in trying to explain what happened to a bewildered electorate.
“If there is an intervention in the tax system to reduce the threshold, then we will have to find the measures that will deliver socially just and effective tax breaks,” he said.
That was in reference to SYRIZA willing to lower the tax-free threshold and tax more lower-income people it vowed to protect, which it said would be offset by raising the tax on luxury goods and lowering it on basic commodities, a robbing Peter to pay Paul model.
He said he was confident the government could also talk about bringing back collective bargaining for workers at the same time it was talking about diluting workers’ rights, and that SYRIZA wants to stave off mass dismissals being demanded by the lenders.
The government has been locked in long-stalled talks with the Troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and European Stability Mechanism over a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($91.41 billion) agreed in July, 2015.
That came with more austerity measures that Tsipras campaigned against before imposing soon after taking office, sending his popularity plummeting.
A review with the lenders is still in progress and the government reportedly agreed to new measures after 2018 in return for the talks resuming.
The government’s narrative is that even though new measures will be implemented, these will be neutral as their burden will be canceled out by tax relief, Kathimerini said. There was no explanation how that would help the economy.
Earlier, government officials were preparing Greeks for the concessions saying that while SYRIZA opposes new measures that they would inevitably have to be implemented “for the good of the country,” the same language it has used in previous surrenders.
The return of the Troika to Athens is accompanied by additional concessions, painful measures and the government’s negotiating failures, New Democracy said, the Athens News Agency reported.
“Once again, the government is attempting to fool the Greek people. Another date went by without a deal and with an indefinite time of completion. Everything is referred to the future,” ND said.
The new deal will bring “higher primary surpluses for plenty of years, additional austerity measures in taxation and pension system which will be legislated immediately,” even after the end of the program in 2019, the party continued.
“And of course, without any talks about the debt and quantitative easing,” it added.
Greece and its European creditors agreed to resume talks on what economic reforms the country must make next in order to get the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy and a potential exit from the euro this summer.
The creditors also hinted that they would temper their demands for budget cuts — a welcome thought for austerity-weary Greeks who have seen poverty and unemployment spike as their economy shrank by a quarter over the recent crisis-ridden years.
“There will be a change in the policy mix, if you will, moving perhaps away from austerity and putting more emphasis on deep reforms,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Eurozone’s top official.
Easing up on austerity has been a key demand of Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotoss as SYRIZA keeps sliding in polls and now is about 15 percent behind New Democracy – which also imposed austerity while ruling before being beaten by the Leftist twice.
Energy Minister George Stathakis said: “We have not agreed specific measures. But we agreed that whatever changes are made at one level, for example tax increases for some categories of Greeks, there will be equivalent measures to reduce taxation. … every measure that carries a tax burden of one euro will have a counter-measure that eases one euro in tax.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)