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Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ promise of tax cuts to offset austerity measures he imposed didn’t get clearance from international lenders who were opposed to it but his coalition government plans to move ahead with them ahead anyway.

Speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sept. 6, Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, pledged a 30 percent cut in the heating oil tax that backfired after it was raised, leading to less-than-expected revenues and driving people to use everything from plastic to wood to construction debris to try to keep warm, hurting the environment.

Government officials defended the decision as necessary to provide relief from big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that Samaras – who had been opposed to them while out of office – implemented on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that put up 240 billion euros ($317 billion) in two bailouts to save the economy.

“We’re saying specific things, things that we can do at specific times, things we can do in the future,” government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi told SKAI without elaborating.

Kathimerini said that Samaras finalized the measures just a few hours before his opening speech at TIF after meeting with his coalition partner, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, who was elevated to Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister after backing worker firings he now opposes.

Besides the heating oil tax reduction, Samaras, whose party has fallen behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said there would be an unspecified cut in the so-called hated solidarity tax on income, but it wouldn’t be outlined until the 2015 draft budget comes out in October.

The logic behind offering the pledges in two phases is to present the prospect of relief from austerity without pre-empting the outcome of talks with Troika officials who are in due in Athens later this month, sources said.

In a news conference on Sept. 7, Venizelos said he supported pledges for relief. That came as Venizelos, whose party has floundered near the bottom of voter popularity surveys after backing austerity, is dealing with a party rift.

Venizelos and the former party leader and previous Premier George Papandreou is at odds with his successor, who is expected to start setting up an organizational committee ahead of the party conference this fall where PASOK’s prospects and policies are to be examined.

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNBC,the SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who is opposed to austerity and said he would seek to revise the Troika loans or walk away from them, leaving the country broke, said he’s ready to govern although he doesn’t have an economic plan.

Tsipras said he expect early elections next year, a year before the New Democracy-PASOK Administration is scheduled to end, because SYRIZA plans to block the vote for a new President to replace Karolos Papoulias.

Election of a President requires 180 votes in the 300-member Parliament but New Democracy has only 128 seats and PASOK has 26, for 154, far short of what’s needed unless the ruling parties can come up with a candidate with cross-party appeal.

Samaras reportedly had mulled the leader of the evaporating Democratic Left (DIMAR) Fotis Kouvelis, who had served in the coalition until quitting last year in a disagreement over the firing of all 2,653 workers at the now-defunct ERT national broadcaster – which Venizelos backed.

Since then, DIMAR has floundered even more and got only 1.4 percent of the vote for Greece’s representation in the European Parliament and is below the 3 percent threshold needed to win seats in the Greek Parliament in the next elections. Kouvelis is also under fire in his own party.

A political change in Greece would “not be a threat for Europe but a challenge to find common European solutions to common problems,” he said.

The post Samaras Jumped Gun, Defied Troika With Tax Cut Vows appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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