ATHENS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced four new initiatives for dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, while speaking in parliament on Friday. Mitsotakis was speaking during the prime minister's hour, in reply to a question tabled by main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on "Effective handling of the repercussions of the healthcare crisis on the Greek economy."
The prime minister announced an increase by 190 million euros in the budget of the SYN-ERGASIA programme, so that by the end of July it will cover 60 pct of the employer contributions of employees in the programme, as well as a possible extension of the measure if needed, in order to preserve existing jobs.
Secondly, he announced new favourable terms for settling outstanding tax and social insurance debts, while the March-September debts will be treated separately and will be payable in 12 interest-free or 24 low-interest installments starting in 2021.
A third measure is the increase in the number of installments for the payment of income and property taxes (ENFIA), in order to ease the burden on tax-payers.
Lastly, he announced a 2 pct immediate discount as an incentive for those that pay off their tax obligations promptly in a single installment, to encourage a smooth flow of tax revenues.
SYRIZA has yet to learn the lessons from its election defeat
In his reply to criticism from Tsipras, Mitsotakis noted that SYRIZA has yet to learn the lessons from its previous term in governance and its defeat in the general elections.
"Mr. Tsipras I discerned a tension and shortness in your first speech. It seems the air in Thessaloniki did not help your psychological mood, perhaps because there were not just backdrops to greet you at the metro but a real work site," Mitsotakis said.
Mitsotakis accused Tsipras of continuing to "dress up" the state that the economy was in when he handed over power and failing to answer the key question, which was why he had lost the elections in July 2019 by such a wide margin if things were going so well.
"And if things today are going as badly as you claim, why do the polls reflect an optimism index that is completely different from that you present. I fear that you have not yet learned the lessons from your previous governance and the verdict of the ballot box," he added.
Mitsotakis noted that the credibility of an economy can be measures in many ways. "I do not need to tell yout that the economic confidence index skyrocketed after the elections. There is also a very objective measure of comparison. How the markets rate the course of the economy. Markets lend to us and must lend to us at a reasonable rate, so that we can finance a very large debt that increased during your term. You accessed the markets at a rate of 3.9 pct. The Hellenic Republic in conditions of pandemic borrowed at an interest rate of 1.57 pct. This is the best answer to your claims regarding the overall course of the economy," Mitsotakis said.
The prime minister also pointed to the Eurogroup's praise of Greece's handling of the pandemic and said that "everyone has drawn their conclusions on whether the country came together behind this effort. The support of the EU and the credibility that Greece has managed to gain in Europe is credited to us over the long term and reflected in the fact that we secured a very large sum."
He also rebuffed Tsipras' claim that the economy had fallen into recession before the pandemic lockdown, noting that it had grown by 1 pct in the last quarter of 2019, and had shrunk by only 0.9 pct in the first third of 2020, as opposed to an average of 3.6 pct in Europe.