With decision on $14.6 billion in new budget cuts stuck in limbo for weeks, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is set to meet with his coalition partners on Sept. 20 to finalize the measures before presenting them to the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which must approve them before releasing more rescue monies.
Samaras will meet PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis, who have been balking over some of the harshest cuts aimed primarily at workers, pensioners and the poor, although the two quasi-Leftists have hinted they will go along with whatever Samaras wants to keep unity. So far, only about $9.8 billion in cuts for 2013-14 have been settled and Samaras wants to conclude talks swiftly.
According to the newspaper Kathimerini, Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said that he knows of no plan to raise the amount to be saved through cuts to pensions, wages and benefits, which currently stands at $6.53 billion, contradicting constant reports they are and that the amount might reach $12.41 billion while tax evaders who owe the country $70 billion will largely escape again.
A report sday suggested that the government is planning to slash the lump-sum payment received by some retirees by up to 83 percent and to make this retroactive, requiring some pensioners to pay money back to the state through an extra tax on top of previously increased taxes, including doubled income and property taxes.
Venizelos pretty much conceded he had given in to relentless pressure, telling his Members of Parliament that the final package would be “the inevitable outcome of a dual compromise,” referring to the government’s concessions to its creditors and concessions he and Kouvelis will give to the dominant New Democracy party, although some of Kouvelis’ members said they will vote against him because he – as did Venizelos – reneged on pre-election campaign promises to hold the line against more cuts to society’s most vulnerable sectors.
The government hopes to conclude negotiations with the Troika so the measures can be voted through Parliament in October, with the aim of securing the release of Greece’s next bailout tranche, which is worth $38.8 billion, as well as a second bailout of $172 billion. Sources told Kathimerini that Samaras is expected to deliver a televised address to the nation at some point next week — ahead of a Parliamentary vote — in which he is likely to stress that the new measures will be the last and to underline the importance of Greece securing its position in the Eurozone. Previous leaders have made – and broken – the same promise.