ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who wasn’t in power during a 2010-18 economic crisis, nevertheless didn’t learn from it and is pushing harsh measures, said major rival SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselaks.
The Leftist leader who took power in June is struggling to keep the party together in the wake of defections of dissidents who said he was moving it away from Leftist roots, some of them mulling forming a rival to challenge him.
He spoke at the 34th Annual Greek Summit organized by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce about the economic crisis that occurred when he was living in the United States and not in Greece to observe it.
Still, he said that, “The Greek government seems to have learned nothing from what happened in the country. Using the recipes we lived with through the dark times, it is voluntarily imposing austerity at least until 2026.”
The toughest came from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) that brought big pay cuts, tax hikes slashed pensions and worker firings while the rich escaped.
He said that economic growth that hit 5.6 percent in 2022 when health measures were lifted during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and additional European Union COVID relief funds weren’t benefitting society.
Instead, he said, the revenues “go to the few and bring growth at the expense of many, who will experience the fiscal adjustment that has already raised the tax-to-GDP rate to a 25-year record with no prospect of reduction.
He didn’t specify which measures the New Democracy government is implementing nor that Mitsotakis has twice raised the minimum wage and provided additional aid to families and energy subsidies.
He said Greece, which has recovered enough to gain investment grade status from most ratings agencies, had accepted tough fiscal discipline from the EU while it’s paying back the bulk of 326 billion euros ($351.29 billion) in three international bailout packages.
When a former SYRIZA team was in power from 2015-19, being then leader and premier Alexis Tsipras was twice routed in 2019 and 2023 elections and quit, he said, “It set a goal to finally get the country out of (a) downward spiral” previous governments had begun.
He said, “It succeeded, with an unprecedented debt settlement, positive growth rates, full public coffers and an increased minimum wage,” not noting Tsipras accepted brutal austerity in return for an 86-billion euro ($92.67 billion) bailout.