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Politics

Mitsotakis Labels Kasselakis “Apprentice Magician,” Rips Economic Ideas

ATHENS – After wrangling over the price of cheese, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece’s major opposition SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis’ economic proposals are misguided, tangling before June 6-9 European Parliament elections.

The Leftist leader also said the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food that runs as high as 24 percent and hurts mostly the poor and working class should be reduced, with supermarket prices out of sight, but that was rejected by Mitsotakis.

The Premier said his government, which has doled out subsidies for previously high electricity bills and has spurred an economic recovery, couldn’t afford to cut the VAT on food that brings in as much as 3 billion euros ($3.25 billion) annually.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the show “Happy Day” of Alpha TV station, Monday June 3, 2024. (DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS/PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS OFFICE/EUROKINISSI)

That’s only about 15 percent of the 21 billion euros ($22.75 billion) that tourism brought in for the record year of 2023, and is expected to likely surpass that in 2024 with more hordes of foreign visitors spending big already.

Mitsotakis, in an interview with Alpha TV, stepped up criticism of the economic proposals by Kasselakis, a Greek-American businessman and said that the Leftist leader’s ideas would cost 45 billion euros ($48.75 billion) over four years.

“I must warn citizens that if these were ever implemented, the country would revert to a state of supervision and bankruptcy because, quite simply, that money doesn’t exist,” he said, although the economy is growing again.

“Citizens have memory, and the last thing they want is an apprentice magician who will make promises – as the same party has done in the past – without substance,” he said, drawing parallels between Kasselakis and his predecessor, Alexis Tsipras.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the show “Happy Day” of Alpha TV station, Monday June 3, 2024. (DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS/PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS OFFICE/EUROKINISSI)

“Despite their stylistic differences, I see a thread connecting them. I observe significant toxicity from Mr. Kasselakis and a great ease in making promises without substance. Despite the different packaging, I see a thread linking the two politicians,” Mitsotakis said.

He also called on Kasselakis to reveal his wealth, which the SYRIZA leader said he would do in an address in Thessaloniki, although it’s a requirement for politicians and ministers to declare their assets.

“This should not even be a subject of discussion because he should have already submitted his asset declarations. Every leader entering public life is required to declare their and their spouse’s assets,” he said.

“My wealth declarations have been meticulously examined over the past 20 years. They are posted and well-known. In my case, something more happened, and I want to remind everyone. My wife was fiercely persecuted by the SYRIZA government and the auditing mechanisms of the time,” he added.

Kasselakis had raised the price of feta as a symbol of the differences between their economic ideas, the contest of words in Parliament and on social media garnering public attention because of the high cost of food.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the show “Happy Day” of Alpha TV station, Monday June 3, 2024. (DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS/PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS OFFICE/EUROKINISSI)

During the debate, Mitsotakis rejected the claim that even some Greek products are more expensive in Greece than other parts of Europe and referred to feta cheese costing 6.28 euros ($6.80) and rising.

Kasselakis then posted a video showing him at supermarkets to check on the prices himself and to show they were higher than what Mitsotakis declared, although it’s olive oil soaring prices that have really rankled many Greeks.

Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis accused Kasselakis of being a “political fraud” and said Mitsotakis was referring to the price of half a kilo, 1.1 pounds, but Kasselakis said the premier was misleading the public.

Inflation was up by 3.1 percent in Greece in April, but food and drink prices rose even further, by 5.4 percent and the New Democracy government has been unable to rein in the rising prices despite issuing fines to Greek and multinational firms.

A National Bank of Greece study said corporate greed was largely behind the continuing high food prices and insistent inflation along with a strong demand for tourism services and wage increases for workers.

The study said that inflation would drop to 2.9 percent in the second quarter of 2024 and to 2 percent in the second half of the year and finish at 2.6 percent for the year although it said that could change over trends in energy and raw materials.

The government said one answer to high prices is to raise wages and pensions further – which it also said was one of the reasons Greeks are paying more for food, offering no explanation for the contradiction.

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