ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is further putting the lingering COVID-19 pandemic in the rear view window to focus on soaring energy prices and whether there will be enough supplies this winter.
He and his advisors, said Kathimerini, want to concentrate on the energy crisis that has seen electric bills double and worries about whether oil and gas will be coming from Russia leading to a push for sustainable alternatives.
The costs have forced the government – facing an election in 2023 – to subsidize electric bills and gasoline purchases for households and consumers and the report said he wants to be seen as handling the problem.
The paper said that the government’s worst-case scenario is a further 30-40 percent rise in international natural gas prices that will require 2 billion euros ($2.03 billion) in further aid, far higher than the first estimate of 850 million euros ($862.63 million) for the rest of 2022.
Mitsotakis, it was said is determined to keep his promise of subsidizing electricity costs for households and businesses for at least a year, taking that into next year’s elections against the major rival SYRIZA.
While the government said it doesn’t have enough money to reduce a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) a boom in tourists is bringing what’s expecte to be at least 3.2 percent growth and higher than estimated revenues.
With lower borrowing costs and a big rainy day fund of cash reserves, that means there’s enough to help pay the rising electric bills and reduce potential backlash from voters.
Mitsotakis also wants the European Union for help in the crisis by decoupling of electricity prices from the price of natural gas and sent a letter to European Commission asking for the proposal to be put on the EU agenda, it was said.
Mitsotakis is moving more into a pre-election mode as SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, whom he unseated in July, 2019 snap polls called by the Leftists when they were ruling, keeps up sniping at him.
SYRIZA is making some gains, however, in issues like complaining about the suspended sentence given former National Theatre Director Dimitris Lignadis after being convicted of raping two minors and education reform, the paper said.
The polls are still strongly in Mitsotakis’ favor for now as he rolled the dice in ruling out snap polls and taking a risk that winter won’t bring a worsening of the energy crisis or further provocations from Turkey – or another COVID surge.
The surveys gave Mitsotakis a 36-27 lead over Tsipras in who can best handle the economy – despite record inflation – and the Prime Minister has a 40-24 percent gap in the managing of foreign policy issues, a New Democracy strong point.
It also showed that most voters – not counting a huge part of the electorate turned off by politics and disinterested in who wins – prefer a one-party government which gives Mitsotakis an edge as it was SYRIZA which changed the law to make it more difficult for any party to rule alone by ending a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament for the victor.