ATHENS - Some 4 ½ years after taking power - and a month away from elections with polls showing he’s far behind, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras rolled out a four-year plan for mass hirings and promising to create a half million jobs.
Without explaining why he didn’t do it after taking office in 2015, and then reneging on promises to reverse austerity, Tsipras said he now has a plan for recovery that will work - only if he’s re-elected.
He called snap elections for July 7 after a May 26 wipeout for his party’s candidates in elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities and despite a rampage of handouts and promises of more is still 7.7 percent behind the party he unseated, the New Democracy Conservatives, now being led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Trying to rally support for his beleaguered government as President Prokopis Pavlopoulos is set to go through the formality of dissolving Parliament so the snap polls can be held, Tsipras called his program “realistic and workable,” said Kathimerini.
After breaking essentially all the pledges in his last campaign’s 40-point program, Tsipras said this time he would go ahead with ideas to bring 500,000 new jobs - without saying how - raise the minimum wage 15 percent over two years, hire 10,000 for the health sector and another 15,000 in education.
With his handouts worrying the country’s creditors the cost is undoing vital reforms that came with 326 billion euros ($368.89 billion) in three bailouts since 2010 - they ended on Aug. 20, 2018 - Tsipras didn’t clarify how he would pay for his promises, nor if they would pass scrutiny from the lenders, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)
“We deserve a chance to govern for the first time without our hands tied, without memorandums, without supervision,” he told party members at Athens Concert Hall. That was in reference to the agreements signed successive governments for the three rescue packages - including one to which he agreed in 2015 for 86 billion euros ($97.31 billion.)
He also said his government will fully digitize the public sector, double foreign direct investment and increase exports at 50 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP_ by 2025 and approve civil marriage for same-sex couples, some of which he had already promised.
While Tsipras said he wants foreign investors - Greece hasn’t been able to make a full market return yet - he raised the corporate tax rate to 29 percent and hard-core elements in his party are trying to stymie projects set to go, including the $8 billion development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport.
Tsipras said he would begin immediately if he’s re-elected and that he doesn’t need the permission of the Troika although automatic spending cuts could be triggered if Greece doesn’t meet fiscal targets and the lenders could pull back a debt relief program.
“We are now deciding for our future,” he said and called on Greeks to “make a new start” on July 7, similar to the message he gave before the 2015 elections, the first in January and a second snap poll in September that year after he imposed capital controls that are still in place.