Tax Fight! Mitsotakis vs. Stournaras

ATHENS – Breaking ranks from Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government’s unity in support of austerity measures, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was out of order when he said Greeks buried under pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and working firings should be taxed even more.

Stournaras, a technocrat who left a think tank to take the thankless job as the finance chief for a country with a staggering $430 billion debt and relying on international loans to survive, drew blistering criticism last week when he suggested that Greeks were not paying enough tax as revenues were still lower than the Eurozone average.

Mitsotakis, a member of Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives who rule with the PASOK Socialists, thought not.  “Those who pay, the usual suspects, are overtaxed,” he said.

He was referring to the government’s habit of putting the tax burden on law-abiding taxpayers with more and more taxes while letting tax cheats escape with near-impunity despite pressure from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is putting up $325 billion in two bailouts.

“In Greece, we are badly taxed. The systematic efforts that have been made by governments so there is a fair distribution of the burden have not been as successful as it should have been.”

Critics said that is an understatement, pointing to an 800 percent increase in property taxes in four years and a raft of other taxes on fuel, oil, food, liquor, cigarettes and across-the-board.

Mitsotakis, however, was adamant that the government should try to see out its four-year term. “The government will not fall,” he said. “If it were to fall, though, it should go down fighting.”