Prime Minister Antonis Samaras unleashed a barrage of criticism against main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party on Tuesday, charging it with trying to create political uncertainty and using blackmail to obstruct the election of the new president of the Republic.
In his addresss at the 25th annual Greek Economy Conference by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens, Samaras defended the government’s stance before the troika of Greece’s lenders, saying that there were demands the government did not accept and lashing out at critics of the government’s accomplishments.
“Now that we are negotiating, there are terms set for increases in taxes and reductions in incomes – we have rejected these,” he said, of talks with the troika. “Our partners forecast a fiscal deficit that cannot be confirmed. In 2013 and 2014 they called for new restrictive measures, which we refused to take. Had we done so, we would not be at the current growth stage. They are asking us for restrictive measures that will force development back.”
Adding that the pressure by the lenders was intensifying because of the last fiscal programme review, Samaras said the creditors were told that if the measures taken by the government did not work, it would take corrective ones. “Certain demands we accepted because the economy can sustain them or they made sense, but the reduction of [citizens’] loan repayment installments or a reduction in pensions would be a message of catastrophe,” he stressed.
The national effort to exit the crisis will be judged by political stability, he stressed. “Nobody in Greece has the right to undermine this stability or the right to keep talking about it abroad,” he said, adding that “I will not accept irrational and unjustifiable pressure. Nobody has the right to treat us like they did two or four years ago – Greece has turned a new page, with fiscal health, reforms and economic recovery.”
“I will not suffer and allow the country’s destabilisation. At times of crisis, it is not the party that matters but responsibility before the people. It is unprecedented for the main opposition to increase political instability,” Samaras asserted.
Continuing his attack against SYRIZA, the premier said that the party’s anxiety was rising because it will have no reason of existence under a new Greece. “They are turning the election of the president of the Republic into a blackmail. They blackmail deputies and undermine constitutional order and institutions. They threaten everyone. They say they will tax wealth, but don’t explain who they mean. Where will they borrow from? What markets?” he said.
Charging SYRIZA for starting rumours about briberies of deputies, he said that “the present Parliament will elect a president and put an end to stories of political anomaly. Political uncertainty is the great problem and SYRIZA provokes it by what it says and does.”
The Greek premier said his priorities once he assumed his duties were three – to break the rise of unemployment and slow down recession; to reduce the debt and restore its viability; and to gradually reduce taxes without jeopardising the country’s fiscal targets.
The government’s achievements related to the three priorities included the following – privatisations are going ahead despite the obstacles, including those leasing 14 regional airports; 95% of income tax returns are now being filed online; 105 billion euros’s worth of debt were shaved off; in 2009 Greece paid 13.5 billion euros in interest, now it just pays 5.5 billion (“an unprecedented event”); and exiting the markets in April, two years sooner than expected.
“As long as we overcome political uncertainty we can borrow from markets instead of from our creditors much more if they give us a credit line,” he said, adding that “we want a new agreement that will allow us to programme the future reduction of tax rates.”
Those who “are fighting tooth and nail to keep us to the past, the only thing they can talk about is the misery of the crisis, the rise of unemployment and the drop in GDP… They neglect to say we are already in recovery and that next year we will have the fastest growth rate in the eurozone. … They forget that the country lives with primary surpluses. For the second year in a row we have exceeded the target and next year we will achieve 3% covering even the interest payments and we will achieve fiscal balance,” he said.