Government’s Legislative Priorities Focus on Humanitarian Crisis

ATTHENS – The first draft bill to be tabled by the SYRIZA government will relate to the humanitarian crisis in Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said at a cabinet meeting on Friday evening.

In his address, Tsipras expressed his satisfaction over the required ratification by EU parliaments of the agreement Greece reached with its creditors, which he said wrapped up a first round of laborious and tough negotiations. “Our European partners were forced to accept something that seemed taboo up to now, that the memorandums and the policies implemented in Greece over the last five years were not simply socially catastrophic but financially ineffective as well,” he said.
The government, he added, had the obligation to begin a series of sweeping reforms that were needed by Greek society, in order to fight tax evasion, deal effectively with corruption, overhaul the public sector, restart the real economy and deal with the humanitarian crisis.
The first bill will be introduced early this coming week. It will provide free electricity and foodstuff to 300,000 Greek families, he said; it will introduce a housing programme for 30,000 people and call for a restriction in the number of evictions, which reached a high during the five years of the bailout memorandum.
It will also include a provision to relieve 3.7 million taxpayers, including small and medium-sized enterprises, that came to owe up to 5,000 euros each without any hopes of repayment and with repercussions that destroy their lives.
The next bill will relate to non-performing loans to the state. It will include a clause relating to outstanding payments to insurance funds and will lift laws leading to the arrest and jailing of taxpayers who owe up to 50,000 euros to the state. The bill will also restore the status of reports by the finance ministry’s financial crimes squad (SDOE), allowing for immediate action to be taken on tax evasion suspicion cases.
The prime minister also said that it is the first time that all audit material accumulated over the years, including the so-called Lagarde list of large Greek bank deposits abroad and cases from the unit processing funds from criminal activities, had been consolidated and would help in the pursuit of tax evaders.
The primary home of families (“first home”) will be protected by a regulation to be filed this coming week that “will put an end to the anxiety of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, workers and pensioners who are in danger of losing their home,” over real estate taxes he said. This will be an emergency regulation and will affect only homes whose official value does not exceed 300,000 euros.
On March 5, Tsipras said, the bill on ERT (the former state broadcaster shut down by the Samaras government in June 2013) will be tabled. It will reinstitute the broadcaster (which is now replaced by Nerit) with an upgraded programme. This will not burden the state budget, he asserted, and therefore is not part of the ongoing negotiations with the country’s creditors.
“The government must show readiness at every level and in every sector in order to be resolving practical problems on a daily basis and promote continuing reforms that will make life easier for Greek citizens and that will streamline the public sector,” he stressed.
Justifying the decision by Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis to revoke the architectural and electrical engineering licence at the Skouries gold mine in northern Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula, Tsipras said the move was required following serious charges and a review was necessary to ensure the company kept the licence obligations. The government wants to defend two priorities it has, the environment and public interest, and will serve the interests of workers and the Greek people with unwavering consistency, he added.
Finally, the premier said that in the following week the government would table a proposal for the drawing up of a committee to investigate the memorandums, the conditions under which they were accepted and the political liability of everyone who contributed to the country’s bankruptcy and forced it into borrowing.
The premier called on all ministers to work together with the minister of administrative reform, thus make everything ready faster, and advised cabinet members to work hard in order to honour the people’s mandate. “I call on you to use fewer political slogans and do more work: Less talk and more action,” he said.