ATHENS – In apparent pre-election mode already, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his New Democracy government will end a solidarity tax surcharge in 2023 and raise pensions.
Benefits for retirees have been frozen since 2010 when Greece began getting 326 billion euros ($333.12 billion) in three international bailouts that came with attached brutal austerity measures exempting Parliament workers.
The rescue packages ended Aug. 20, 2018 but the Troika of European creditors kept up surveillance of the economy until just now to make sure the government didn’t slip back into wild spending and patronage practices.
“It is a double resounding signal that the country’s growth must benefit everyone without putting fiscal balance and the Greek economy’s competitiveness at risk,” Mitsotakis told lawmakers in Parliament.
He said pensions “will be placed on a course of regular and permanent increases” as of next year and that the abolition of the solidarity tax will apply to private and public sector employees, as well as pensioners, said Kathimerini.
He had first vowed abolition of the levy only for 2021 in a tax relief package to help workers during lockdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic but that was postponed when the economy got worse.
Reaching out to voters with the major opposition SYRIZA – whom he unseated in July, 2019 snap elections nipping at his heels – he said his priority was to speed an economic recovery and bring investments and jobs.
“Today’s Greece is a different Greece. It is one of the countries with the most dynamic growth and the highest reduction of unemployment in Europe. It is of the top countries in the OECD in terms of tax reduction and has paid off its debt to the IMF two years earlier, while in August it will break free of enhanced surveillance while aiming to regain its investment grade,” he said.
He added that, “This is a national success, even more so because all the things I spoke of were neither self-evident nor easy, nor were they achieved under normal conditions,” he said, the paper reported.
Mitsotakis noted that his government twice raised the minimum wage – which SYRIZA vowed to do but didn’t while in power – taking it to 713 euros
($726.38) monthly and reduced social security contributions for workers.
SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras, who changed his party’s name from the Radical Left after taking a beating in the snap elections anre breaking his anti-austerity vows said that Mitsotakis pretended to be “pro-labor,” but was lying, the report added.
“You spoke of crucial issues of the social policy but you forgot to mention five (things): high prices, inflation, fuel, pandemic and conspiracy,” Tsipras said at the party leaders’ debate requested by Mitsotakis to brief Parliament on the government’s social policies.
He described Mitsotakis’ speech as “a case study” for political scientists on “how someone turn black into white and how to say so many, many lies,” while adding: “It is the reality that is refuting you, not us.”