ATHENS – On his heels for reneging on anti-austerity promises, a wildfire that killed 98 people and infighting over a name deal for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to use the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) to try to resurrect himself and his faltering Radical Left SYRIZA.
Tsipras will open the event Sept. 8 with a speech said to offer beleaguered Greeks handouts and relief from brutal economic measures, many he imposed, and try to convince them not to give up on his agenda, despite having broken essentially every promise he made.
The Premier reportedly will hang his hat on hopes he can make independent policy with the Aug. 20 end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($376.89 billion) from 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).
His constant claims there would be a so-called “Clean Exit,” were dashed by the creditors who said the country’s economy will need monitoring for years to insure it hits fiscal targets and that he doesn’t renege on them on reforms the way he did to voters.
Warming up for the event, Tsipras praised some minor changes in labor law as part of his scheme to perhaps restore collective bargaining rights to workers that were stripped after he broke his vow to prevent that.
Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou signed collective labor contracts for four sectors that Tsipras said were “the first government decision that signals [Greece’s] exit from the memorandum,” signed with the lenders.
His coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), hopes to convince the creditors there will be a big enough primary surplus – which doesn’t include interest in the debt, the cost of running cities, towns, state enterprises, social security and some military expenditures – and by withholding payments to state debtors, to suspend pension cuts he agreed that are due to start Jan. 1, 2019.
He also wants to bring some tax relief to the middle class that Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos had admitted was deliberately overtaxed so that the government could give holiday bonuses to low-income pensioners and jobless youth in what critics said was a transparent attempt to buy votes.
The measures Tsipras is expected to announce during his keynote speech include, among others, targeted tax relief, a reduction in social insurance contributions, a rise in the minimum wage and restoring labor rights, said Kathimerini, as he has fallen far behind the party he unseated, the New Democracy Conservatives.
Speaking earlier to local businessmen in northern Greece, Tsipras said that it would be “first time time after eight years that a Prime Minister of Greece will speak at TIF and present a plan drafted by his own government,” instead of dictated by the creditors.