Tsipras Plans Handouts Trap for Next Greek Government

FILE - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signs a protocol after the swearing in ceremony of his cabinet at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – If he loses the next elections, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras apparently plans to leave behind an unwelcome gift for the winner – big handouts the next government would likely have to keep offering.

With his popularity plummeting after reneging on anti-austerity promises almost as soon as he took office in January, 2015, and continued after winning snap polls in September that year, Tsipras reportedly will announce the giveaways when he opens the Thessaloniki International Fair on Sept. 8.

That’s traditionally the time when Greek leaders make big promises they rarely keep but with the end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($378.93 billion) on Aug. 20, he said he can now act unilaterally without supervision from the country’s lenders, 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).

The creditors have said otherwise and that they will be monitoring reforms and austerity to which he agreed to make sure he doesn’t renege on them the way he did to voters and to insure fiscal targets are met, and warned they could yank a debt relief deal if he goes too far.

In an anticipated speech seen as Tsipras’ opening gambit for re-election, with polls required to be held by Oct. 1, 2010, he is set to announce measures that will be introduced over a four-year period and cost 700 million euros ($813.65 million,) said Kathimerini.

Unidentified sources told the paper that if the relief measures are spread out over four years to 2022, the final cost will come to more than 3.5 billion euros ($4.07 billion) – effectively forcing whomever is in power to adhere to the SYRIZA policies in an apparent political trap in case he doesn’t win.

If reductions in the highly unpopular ENFIA property tax surcharge he vowed to scrap but continued are announced, the government reportedly plans to push them through the Parliament it controls by a three-vote majority but implemented in a staggered fashion.

The same plan would apply to lowering the income tax, as well as cut in social security contributions that poll-leading major rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would introduce, along with private pension schemes.

Introducing reversals in austerity couldn’t be undone by a new government, the SYRIZA thinking was said to go, leaving a political landmine for New Democracy if it wins, forcing the Conservatives to keep applying breaks that the Leftists could claim they adopted.

Tsipras’ hopes of stopping more pension hikes on Jan. 1, 2019 to which he agreed were dashed by the lenders and the country will need to return to international markets in under two years when a cash buffer of 9.5 billion euros ($11.04 billion) from a third bailout in 2015, this one for 86 billion euros ($99.96 billion) that Tsipras sought and accepted after saying he would do neither, runs out.