FinMin Tsakalotos: Briefings are given by the government and the spokesman speaks for all

Briefings are given by the government and its spokesman speaks for the government as a whole, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos commented in Parliament on Thursday, deflecting opposition criticism about his alleged “disappearance” from the media after Monday’s Eurogroup.

“It is very touching that you were all looking for me and that you missed me. I would like to thank New Democracy for congratulating me on my Greek, because it is getting better and I thank them very much. Briefings are given by the government. As far as I know, there is collective responsibility under the Constitution and when Mr. Tzanakopoulos speaks, he does not do this on his own account but for the government as a whole,” Tsakalotos said.

Referring to an upcoming briefing of Parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee next Tuesday, Tsakalotos said this would give the main opposition time to get over its disappointment that its dire predictions regarding the review and several billions in additional fiscal measures had not been proved right.

The key, Tsakalotos added, was in the single word “net” uttered by European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici in the press conference after the Eurogroup, when replying to a journalist about the Greek government’s claim that it would not have to take “a single euro” of additional austerity measures. This meant that any measures taken will have no net fiscal impact, Tsakalotos explained.

“In other words, if there is a package of one billion euros that are measures that depress demand, there will be one billion in positive measures that will be returned to the economy,” the finance minister said. This was what Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem had meant when he talked about a shift away from austerity to structural reforms, to changes in the taxation portfolio and the social portfolio.

“Some could lose out, of course, but others will gain. In other words, some people that we are now not helping and that we should help, we will help. Some may lose out; we will do everything during the negotiation to minimise their losses and get them something to compensate,” he said. He also pointed out that the package was not final.

“We never said that the taxation system of the last 40 years was the best one. We never said that through the clientelist system we had arrived at a social system, whose restructuring was the best possible. Therefore, we are always open to discussions, now that we will have zero fiscal impact but we will have reforms,” he added.

He noted that the government was discussing a major programme to restrict not the austerity that is coming, but the austerity that already existed, with employment programmes.