SYRIZA 2019 Budget Says Greece Booming, Promises Handouts

FILE - A group of tourists, holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun, walk up the stairs at Syntagma square as they visit Athens, on Saturday, July 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS – Likely putting himself on a collision course with Greece’s international creditors, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ 2019 budget doesn’t include pension cuts he promised to impose on Jan. 1, 2019, predicts a big primary surplus of 3.6 percent and sets aside 1.1 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in various “discretionary measures.”

Those could include more handouts to lower-income pensioners and jobless youth, based on Tsipras pledges that effectively renege on his previous reneging when he broke his vow not to impose more austerity but did under pressure from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM).

Elections must be held by October 2019 but are on course to be held sooner as Tsipras wants to keep the major rival New Democracy from gaining more momentum over his reneging, with the Conservatives holding double-digit leads in polls.

Tsipras said the pension cuts he agreed were longer necessary because his government’s budget has a higher-than-expected primary surplus, which doesn’t include interest on 326 billion euros on three bailouts ($376.94 billion), the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, social security and some military expenditures, and is being built by withholding payments to those owed money by the state and taxing benefits, even for families and mothers.

Higher welfare spending, such as rent subsidies for lower-income families, permanent status for thousands of special education teachers and in-home care-givers, slightly lower Value Added Tax (VAT) rates, reducing the corporate tax rate he put at 29 percent, are also part of the budget, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.