ATHENS – What three successive governments of parties that contributed to Greece’s economic crisis could not achieve, was achieved by the government of the Left, former prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday in an article posted on his Facebook account.
The post notes the one-year anniversary of the completion of the fiscal adjustment program on August 21, 2018, describing the date as Ulysses’ ‘arrival at Ithaca’, following “an unprecedented eight-year adventure of austerity, moral and economic discrediting.” The Greek people’s sacrifices, he said, brought results.
When SYRIZA came to power, he said, it found Greece “in a financial stranglehold, with primary deficits, a destroyed production base, with employment in a state of the Dark Ages, with unemployment rates of 27.9 pct for all and 60 pct for young people. We managed to reverse the picture.”
Among his government’s achievements, Tsipras recalled the reforms in social insurance funds, the reintroduction of collective labor agreements, a rise in the minimum monthly wages and health services for all residents of Greece, nationals or migrants.
“Bankrupt Greece’s exit from the loan memoranda was not an eventual certainty, however, that would have come anyway,” he noted. “Without an agreement on the country’s debt, which opened the way for Greece’s access to the markets again with historically low lending rates, and without reclaiming our credit internationally, Greece would not have returned to normalcy.”
The former prime minister criticized New Democracy (ND) for casting doubt from the outset on SYRIZA’s ability to succeed and from downplaying its successes to win general elections in July, “the first elections after a decade that took place without the suffocating supervision of creditors.”
His government “had already announced and began to apply a plan to reduce primary surpluses by 1 pct, from 3.5 pct to 2.5 pct, starting in 2020,” using the high reserves in the public funds it had created through great effort. “But ND rejected this plan, before even discussing it with the creditors,” he said, unilaterally deciding there would be no reduction in the primary surplus target for 2020.” He also warned that the current government plans to cut back the annual supplementary bonus to salaries and the tax-free threshhold.
The ND government, he said, “is here enjoying the fruit of the Greek people’s labor, and trying to tear down what we built with great effort. But history does not end here – fortunately or unfortunately, it lasts a long time.”
Gov’t Spokesman Responds to Former PM
The travails of the Greek people lasted longer because of former prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ wish to stay in power longer, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Wednesday.
Petsas responded to the article by Tsipras posted on Facebook in which the latter had referred to leading Greeks out of the crisis to Ithaca, comparing Ulysses’ (Odysseus’) adventures to the economic crises the Greek people endured.
Responding in kind, the spokesman said that “the Greek people’s Odyssey was extended by 4.5 years because Mr. Tsipras wanted to keep his seat as prime minister by any means possible.”
“In order to rise to power, he sank the economy, threw away Greeks’ sacrifices in the garbage, loaded new austerity measures worht 10 billion euros on the shoulders of all Greeks and cost over 100 billion euros to the current and to future generations, mortgaging public assets to 2115,” the spokesman charged.
The Greeks turned Tsipras down and voted him out, Petsas said. “As far as his dire predictions are concerned, he may wish to see (austerity) measures burdening Greeks in order to feel politically justified, but the public knows that the Mitsotakis government has already reduced ENFIA (real estate tax) by 22 percent, and more things are coming.”