With the government under fire from the opposition over a slew of pre-electoral hand outs and social benefits – the latest batch is scheduled to be announced next week – Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said that the government is merely doing what it had promised in 2015.
“Many people understand that things are going better, that growth has returned, that exports are doing very well, and that investments are being made,” Tsakalotos told Prisma 91.6 radio in Preveza.
“We are gradually beginning to do what we promised before the September, 2015 election. We have access to the markets and pensions were not cut.”
‘Some people are in dire straits’
“Things are moving in the right direction and will gradually mprove but we cannot hide the fact that some people are in dire straits. That could not have been otherwise in a country that lost nearly one-quarter of its GDP in a crisis unprecedented in the Western world…We are regaining a degree of freedom and we can now say that what Alexis Tsipras announced at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) was implemented. He announced a [social spending] package of something over 900mn euros. It was all implemented either through taxation or insurance contributions. We instituted a numberof measures for freelance professionals. We began rebuilding the social state which our opponents describe as handouts. We say a contemporary state should have a strong social dimension,” Tsakalotos said.
Tax cuts, distributive justice
“As a left-wing government we want to cut taxes but also to redistribute income and both elements are important,” he said.
Tsakalotos maintained that the government aims to tax the haves more than the have-nots who have borne the brunt of the crisis and he cited as a case in point a tax that was imposed on yachts that visit the islands.
‘Super-primary surpluses make us more trustworthy’
Regarding the fact that over the past years the government has considerably overreached primary surplus targets – which the oppositon charges comes from over-taxation of the middle class which has hampered the economy – Tsakalotos said that, “It was not our aim to have super-primary surpluses. Now that the bailout memorandum is over we can plan policies without waiting until the end of the year because we have made correct calculations, know how the economy is going, and have shown that our projections are better than those of the institutions [Greece’s creditors]. If there is one good thing about the super-primary surplus is that it has made us more trustworthy,” the finance minister said.
More concerned about Europe than Greece
“I am less troubled about Greece because we are moving in the right direction and we have undeniably shielded the country against a prospective crisis. The problem is that the reform of the economic and financial architecture of Europe has not moved forward and so I am concerned about the future of Europe,” Tsakalotos said.
The finance minister maintained that Europe is changing – he said that the left-wing and not the right wing won the election in Spain, but he bemoaned the rise of the extreme right there.