Troika Watching, Reeling Tsipras Rolling Out Handouts

FILE - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, arrives for a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, March 9, 2017. (Photo: Eurokinissi/EU)

ATHENS – Plunging deep in polls with elections coming, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly planning a comeback to lure voters with another round of handouts after hitting them with harsh austerity measures for more than four years.

The Radical Left SYRIZA leader is frantically trying to play catch up against the party he unseated in 2015, the major opposition New Democracy, with the Conservatives holding big leads ahead of the May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.

New Democracy, under Kyriakos Mitsotakis – also the favorite in surveys to be Prime Minister – is also far ahead for the general elections which must be held by October as Tsipras plummeted after constantly reneging on anti-austerity promises.

Trying to counter, the government is expected to soon announce, possibly as soon as May 6, handouts worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.34 billion,) wiping out the entire primary surplus for the year but with the country’s creditors, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) watching, said Kathimerini.

According to reports, the measures will be a combination of social benefits, possibly including a one-month bonus to pensioners the Leftists hammered after promising to stop pension cuts.

There could also be tax breaks to partially roll back an avalanche of tax hikes and new tariffs Tsipras imposed after vowing to cut taxes. The breaks, and one-month pension bonus, unlike other handouts, reportedly would be permanent and not a one-time payment.

The Troika is said to be anxious that Tsipras is rolling back reforms to which he agreed to get a third bailout for Greece in the summer of 2015, that one for 86 billion euros ($96.25 billion) that came with more austerity measures he swore to reject but imposed.

The government though scrapped the idea of a one-time Easter bonus after it was said Tsipras didn’t want to appear to be a handout Premier in a transparent bid to win back voters he buried and as he wants to woo those from the center-left, the paper also said.

Troika envoys were due in Athens May 6 for a three-day visit as part of what is likely to be years of monitoring the Greek economy to make sure there’s no backtracking on reforms and austerity.