ATHENS – Trailing badly in polls with elections required to be held by October, 2019, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wants to stop coming new pension cuts he agreed to with international creditors that would hit 30 percent of recipients.
Those are due to begin Jan. 1 but his Administration hopes to convince the creditors, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) fiscal targets can be meet with the additional pension slashes.
The goal of the coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), is to at least suspend the cuts, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said, to prevent what could be political suicide.
The IMF, which took part in two first bailouts of 240 billion euros ($279.62 billion) that began in 2010 but not a third, for 86 billion euros ($100.2 billion) in the summer of 2015 that Tsipras sought and accepted after swearing he would do neither, has ruled out reversing the pension cuts.
But the government is arguing the IMF has no standing in that as it dealt with the Troika for the third rescue package. The coalition’s spin now is that if fiscal goals are met then the pension cuts wouldn’t happen, although the creditors have warned that could put at risk a debt relief deal giving Greece until 2060 to repay the bailouts.
Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, one of Tsipras’ closest associates, blamed the IMF for wanting more pension cuts after the agency earlier had said austerity was too harsh and wasn’t working.
He tweeted that the “…IMF’s insistence on cutting pensions, as cited by (press) reports, doesn’t cause surprise,” and he promised they wouldn’t happen and “serve as a “negative surprise to those (opposition politicians) who function based on coercion from abroad (the IMF, creditors) … Greece and Portugal are in the same post-memorandum situation; visits by the institutions (creditors’ auditors), discussion and reviews including the views of both sides; neither imposed measures, nor supervision. Portugal refused cuts in wages and pensions without any crisis arising.”