Tsakalotos: More positive than negative elements in draft omnibus bill

Despite containing some “difficult” measures, the positive elements in the government’s draft omnibus bill outstripped the negative, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos informed the relevant Parliamentary committees on Wednesday. He also noted that the mammoth draft bill, legislating for the outstanding prior actions agreed with Greece’s creditors to conclude the third review of the Greek programme, indicated a shift in the reform process.

“This is just a step; you haven’t seen anything yet,” he told lawmakers.

“We are fully aware of the difficulties but we are also fully aware that this draft bill is the first for which there can be no doubt that there are more positive than negative elements,” Tsakalotos said. It showed that the government had a narrative for exiting the memorandum programme in 2018, he added, but also that a balance was beginning to emerge between “what we do because we are obliged and what we do because these are the needs of the economy or of society.”

Talking about the new rules on the quorum required for trade unions to call strikes, the minister admitted that “this is not something we would have chosen” and stated that “this is not a good measure.” He pointed out that this was the only labour-related measure demanded by the creditors that was finally included in the draft bill, despite the government’s strenuous efforts to avoid this. He also pointed out that the requirement to have at least half of the staff present during the vote and a 30 pct vote in favour “does not seem catastrophic”.

“What is important is to see how we can engage workers to participate in unions…to participate in order to overcome this obstacle,” he added.

Referring to the start of electronic property auctions for unpaid debts, the minister denied that the bill introduced new criteria or a new strategy for the Independent Authority for Public Revenue. The only change, he noted, was that everything done in the conventional manner would now be done electronically.

Tsakalotos also referred to the changes to child benefit, rejecting criticism that this was a “redistribution of poverty” and saying that the revision of spending led to a restructuring that was fairer and provided 315 million euros to use on policies centred on children.

On the measures for licencing investments, he said these aimed to increase transparency.