ATHENS – With Greek officials set to meet envoys from international lenders in Paris and here next month, Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader is readying a crucial speech for the Thessaloniki International Fair promising tax cuts and attacking his bitter rival, the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which is leading in polls.
Samaras is due to set out his economic plan at the Thessaloniki Fair on Sept. 6, a week before SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who is opposed to the austerity measures Samaras embraced, gives his vision.
Samaras’ government, which includes his partner the PASOK Socialists, are reeling from the fury over bad data led to incorrect astronomical property tax bills under the unified ENFIA being sent to taxpayers. Finance Ministry officials are trying frantically to correct the errors and delayed payment and extended the payment time.
Samaras, who has buried Greeks with big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings, now is reversing course, with New Democracy fading behind SYRIZA.
“From now on our aim is to ease the burden on citizens,” New Democracy MP Chrysanthos Lazaridis, who is also also one of Samaras’s closest advisers, told Mega TV, although he had voted for tax hikes.
New Democracy sent its secretary, Andreas Papamimikos, to Thessaloniki to meet local officials and business leaders and try to assuage them and try to get a warm welcome for Samaras after the government had kept protesters far away in previous years.
Samaras though has to wait for the outcome of talks in Paris on Sept. 2-4 with his key ministers and envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Fund (EU-IMF-ECB) who are putting up 240 billion euros ($327 billion) in two bailouts on condition of tough austerity measures.
“We are going to Paris for the negotiations with the Troika so we can come away from the meeting with something, not because we are looking for the Lord’s blessing,” said Lazaridis.
Greece is hoping to get the Troika’s approval for tax cuts and debt restructuring but is also reportedly planning to try to pick apart SYRIZA, which has offered no alternative to austerity other than revising or reneging on the debt. That would leave Greece broke but Tsipras – without saying where he would get the money – said he would restore pay, bring back all fired workers, cut taxes and restore pensions to pre-austerity levels.
SYRIZA economic spokesman Yiannis Dragasakis offered only a vague outline of what Tsipras would say in Thessaloniki, relying on walking away from a big chunk of what the country owes. He also said SYRIZA was lining up a 5-billion-euro program to stoke employment but didn’t say from where the money would come.
“This is not an economic program, it is gobbledygook,” said New Democracy MP Adonis Georgiadis, who sells ancient Greek history books in TV infomercials.
“He has served as deputy finance minister in the past and he still has the political gall to come out and say this is rubbish? It is not possible that in today’s Europe Dragasakis tells these fairy tales to the Greek people.”
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