The 2019 draft budget submitted by the government passed parliament with a majority vote of 154 votes on Tuesday night.
A total of 297 deputies were present at the roll call vote, and 143 MPs of the opposition voted against it. Yiannis Saridis, Union of Centrists deputy, also voted for
The vote followed the closing address by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has noted that this is the first budget to be submitted in parliament after the completion of Greece’s adjustment programme in August.
Tsipras to ND: You are always trying to create a reverse picture of reality
The previous government of New Democracy (ND) left behind public funds bereft of funds, insurance funds with massive deficits of over 1 billion euros, and an unemployment rate of 28 percent, Prime Minister Alexis charged during the parliamentary plenary session.
Attacking the main opposition party and its current leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister called out ND for “signing off surpluses of 4.5 percent over four years and of 4 percent to 2060 (…) while being unable to reach the target of 1.5 percent” in 2014, under the Antonis Samaras government.
From 2010 to 2014, Greece lost a quarter of its national wealth and within five years had a recession of 5.5 percent per year, Tsipras charged, while currently the country is expected to complete its second year of positive growth.
“You are always trying to create a reverse picture of reality to justify what is unjustifiable and to create more excuses,” the premier said, adding that ND’s “fiscal adjustment was tougher and ineffective.” He also reiterated that the budget in parliament is the first post-loan-memorandum budget, “one of fiscal expansion after eight years of austerity.”
Tsipras responded to ND’s accusations of promoting austerity measures by saying that his government “took over a country right after five destructive years (…) and a social disaster.” During the main opposition’s turn in government, the deficit shot to 15 percent, austerity measures totaling 65 billion euros were introduced and pensions were cut by 40 billion euros. “What exactly do you want us to compare?” he said.
The premier outlined the government’s successes in energy, construction, tourism, the project of Hellenikon which will begin in spring 2019, and other investments. According to statistical authority’s data for 2017, net direct foreign investments in Greece reached 3.59 billion euros, and in the first nine months of 2018 they total 2.77 billion euros, Tsipras said, also refuting “the myth that Greece does not have access” to international markets because of high borrowing rates.
“Our vision is clear,” Tsipras said, and it relates to “the dynamic growth of the Greek economy and the revival of production, the safeguarding of fiscal stability, the increase of wages (…) and the support and upgrading of the social state, health, education and social solidarity.”
Mitsotakis: 2019 budget makes poor people poorer
The main opposition New Democracy will vote down “the government of taxes, unacceptable national compromises, scandals and vested interests,” party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
In his strong condemnation of the coalition government of SYRIZA-ANEL for “populism and politics without principles,” Mitsotakis reiterated that the fiscal obligations the government has assumed with its lenders “comprise an informal fourth loan agreement, with unbearable surpluses of 3.5 pct to 2022.” The new year, he charged, is coming for a society which remains trapped in austerity after 29 new taxes and a reduction in real salaries of 3.5 percent in 2017, while surpluses “undermine the economy and the average income.”
Mitsotakis also said that the government of Alexis Tsipras raised the primary surplus from a target of 1.75 percent of the GDP to 4.13 percent, forcing Greeks to pay an additional 4.2 billion euros over what they needed to.” The current outstanding debts that Greeks have surpass 103 billion euros, he said, “and half the Greek population owes money, unable to pay or even to make arrangements to meet its obligations,” while household deposits and those of businesses in banks “barely total 107.7 billion euros, compared to 136 billion in November 2014,” before the coalition came to power.
This draft budget, he insisted, “supports unbearable surpluses, harming public investments to begin with, which are short by 1.55 billion euros and will be further cut back by 550 million in 2019.”
Accusing the prime minister of “excessive taxation, dissolution of the social fabric and cowardice in reforms,” the main opposition leader said that the budget “remains an enemy of the people” and “makes poor people poorer.”
Mitsotakis then referred to his party’s programme, which includes lowering taxes and more opportunities for Greeks to repay their debts, boosting SMEs and the health of the insurance system by investing its capital.