ATHENS – With much-ballyhooed plans to demolish 1,185 unlawful buildings after illegal construction was blamed for deadly July 23 wildfires that killed 99 people in the seaside village of Mati on hold, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition instead is planning to legalize unlawful buildings and assess fines to bring in critically needed revenues.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had vowed to stop unlawful construction, which had also been blamed for deaths in November 2017 flooding in the town of Mandra west of the Capital after blaming previous governments for a policy of allowing them, then legalizing them with payments of penalties, which his coalition now is proceeding to do.
The government is also offering a discount on penalties for homeowners unlawfully building structures, some 20 percent off, instead of tearing them down as promised. They are mostly second residences in unzoned areas, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
Tsipras, with his popularity plummeting after repeatedly reneging on promises to stop pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, worker firings and the sale of state assets – he’s implementing more – wants to avert planned new pension cuts set to kick in on Jan. 1, 2019.
To do that, the government needs to build a bigger primary surplus – not including interest on 326 billion euros ($374.88 billion) in three international bailouts, other debt, the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, social security, some military expenditures and delaying payments to those owed money by the state.
Figures from Greece’s Technical Chamber of Commerce, which represents building contractors and civil engineers, wholly or partially illegally built structures in the country that have been declared as part of the legalization process exceed 1.073 million, while the state has so far collected 2.171 billion euros ($2.5 billion) from legalizing buildings, some of which have blocked water run-offs that created flooding and created fire hazards.