THESSALONIKI – Besieged by political rivals on a number of fronts and inflation the highest in nearly 30 years, Prime Minister Kyriakos used the Thessaloniki International Fair to offer 5.5 billion euros ($5.58 billion) in handouts, looking ahead to the 2023 elections.
Mitsotakis is also under growing pressure from Turkish provocations, soaring energy costs, and a spyware scandal and used the event, where Greek leaders annually make lavish promises, to try to deconstruct the criticism against him.
The giveaways were in 21 measures that he said “do not throw off the fiscal balance,” 5 percent growth seen, on the back of what’s expected to be a record-smashing 2022 bringing in more than 20 billion euros ($20.3 billion.)
But there was no announced plan to cut a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food despite many families struggling to buy basic goods and turning to generic brands while supermarket sales are falling because of the costs.
The schemes will be rolled out in three waves, he said, including a six-point plan for housing to help the young to begin immediately, along with the first pension increases in 11 years, held back by austerity measures required for 326 billion euros ($330.97 billion) in three international bailouts.
A long promised and often delayed 250-euro ($253.81) cash grant will be paid in December to 2.3 million people, including pensioners, uninsured seniors, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.
Beneficiaries of the minimum guaranteed income will collect one more monthly installment, while those with child benefits will collect one-and-a-half monthly installments in aid.
Other measures include:
–A student housing allowance will immediately go from 1,000 euros ($1015.23) to 1,500 euros ($1522.88) and to 2,000 euros ($2030.50) for eligible students living together in a rented residence
–Monies for heating subsidies will be broaden to bring in 1.3 million households with worries that energy supplies won’t be enough in the winter. The allowance will be doubled for those who use oil or energy other than natural gas
Mitsotakis said it was “a strong incentive to replace electricity or natural gas with other forms of heating, where this is feasible.”
– A subsidy of 60 million euros ($60.91 million) will be paid to farmers to help with the cost of fertilizers, while 50,000 livestock farmers will receive 89 million euros ($90.36 million) to cope with increased animal feed prices
–Recipients of a plan to trade in old air conditioners and appliances will see more money allocated but it won’t be operational until almost winter
-Incentives to put solar panels on rooftops, long neglected in a country with abundant sunshine and turning back toward coal to generate electricity
–Providing additional incentives to extend the tourist season through the year, including for advertising to lure people in the winter and off seasons
–More wages for long-term volunteers and short-term reassignment soldiers in the Armed Forces, extending 5-year contracts and over-night compensations, and instituting additional pay for warship crews on duty
–Effective immediately until the end of 2023, all companies that convert part-time employee contracts to permanent ones will be exempted from 40 percent of the insurance contributions of those employees.
–Start-ups and small businesses planning new hirings will not pay a start-up fee for that year, granted only under condition that they increase their average annual number of full-time employees.
–The temporary reduction of social insurance contributions by 3 percent is now permanent, increasing the disposable income of some 2,2 million workers, while reducing the wage burden for businesses.
–The end of the hated Special Solidarity Contribution tax that had workers paying for the low-income and vulnerable out of their pockets
– The special payroll of the 20,000 doctors in Greece’s National Health Service (NHS) will increase their basic salary by about 10 percent
– The maternity allowance in the private sector is immediately extended from 6 to 9 months.
– The reduced VAT on transport, coffee and non-alcoholic drinks is extended until June 2023, with the same policy to apply to culture and tourism sites entrance fees, gyms and dance schools.
– The 24% VAT on new buildings remains suspended until the end of 2024 to support the construction industry
-The 713-euro ($723.87) minimum wage will increase again on May 1, 2023, just ahead of elections and Mitsotakis tries to beat back criticism from the former ruling and major opposition SYRIZA