ATHENS – A week before he’s due to give a major address at the Thessaloniki International Fair, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said a 0.8 increase in the country’s growth is proof his government has brought Greece back from a crushing economic crisis.
Government officials pointed to the estimate from the country’s statistics agency ELSTAT – whose numbers it has disputed ferociously in the period before the coalition, including the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), took power in 2015 – to claim the crisis is over.
“The ELSTAT data show that if we continue with the same rates [of growth] that we had in the first quarters… we can reach growth rates close to 2 percent, which is something the Greek economy hasn’t seen in over a decade,” Tsipras said.
He didn’t mention the 326 billion euros ($386.62 billion) the country owes in three international bailouts that began in 2010, nor the brutal austerity measures he imposed after vowing to reject them, including more coming pension cuts and taxes on low-income families.
Nor did Tsipras note that a recovery – if it’s coming – is because he reneged on anti-austerity promises in bowing to the creditors, the Quartet of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-IMF-ECB-ESM).
Tsipras’ administration agreed to more tough terms in return for the release of 8.5 billion euros ($10.15 billion) from a third, staggered, delayed bailout of 86 billion euros ($101.99 billion) he sought and accepted two years ago after saying he would do neither.
Unnamed sources from his office backed him to the hilt, telling the newspaper Kathimerini that the coalition is responsible for what it insisted would be a recovery.
“This trend was strengthened after the completion of the second (bailout) review, the country’s successful return to international money markets and the upgrades given to Greece by the international rating agencies,” they said.
That was also referring to the July sale of a 3-billion euro ($3.56 billion) bond in a tentative tesk market return that found investors, but at more than three times the interest rate being paid the Quartet for the rescue packages.
That’s Tsipras’ story and he’s sticking to it like repeating a mantra in the lead-up to the Thessaloniki fair despite being mocked by rival parties and in contradiction of other evidence the country’s debt is unsustainable and as he has been unable to get the debt relief he demanded.