Despite barking opposition to some reforms, lawmakers in Greece’s ruling New Democracy Conservatives and PASOK Socialists are expected to roll over and approve a 2014 disputed budget even without knowing the size of a revenue gap nor how the government is going to deal with it.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose coalition administration is still in stalled negotiations with international lenders over the financial blueprint to deal with the ongoing economic crisis, presented it to the Parliament where he has only a four-vote majority although more than a handful of government MPS said they were unhappy with it.
Despite that, it’s believed they will follow orders to vote for the budget even though they disagree with provisions that will again hit hardest at workers, pensioners and the poor and as the government still has not aggressively gone after tax cheats as demanded by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that is putting up $325 billion in two bailouts.
Lawmakers are set to begin voting at midnight on Dec. 7 after what’s expected to be the usual hot resistance from the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party whose leader, Alexis Tsipras is opposed to the austerity measures attached to the rescue package but who wants the money without conditions nor has has offered any alternatives.
But while government MPs are expected to okay the budget,, many made it clear that they would not offer the same support for other contentious reforms such as a new unified property tax or lifting the ban on mortgage foreclosures when those are presented on Dec. 10 to the body.
“The fact that we will give you our vote of confidence is not a reason for you to sleep soundly,” New Democracy MP and former Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis told Parliament, and policymakers in particular. “We are waiting for the property tax,” he said, adding, “Your woes will not end until Parliament closes for the holidays.”
In an apparent dig at the Troika, which has not approved the budget, PASOK deputy Thanos Moraitis remarked that “some are dreaming about new measures in three or four months,” noting however that “there will be no government majority to support them.”
Several other coalition deputies lashed out against the Finance Ministry – chiefly its failure to crack down on high-level tax evasion – with many directing their anger against Minister Yannis Stournaras in person following his recent claims that Greeks are “undertaxed” in comparison to other European countries.
In comments later, following talks with the premier said, “It is not the role of the finance minister to be pleasant but to be effective, and we have a difficult task ahead of us.”
The unified property tax has been revised due to objections by dozens of coalition MPs. A legislative amendment foreseeing the extension of restrictions on home foreclosures is expected to be tabled on the same day.
SYRIZA has proposed an alternative amendment foreseeing a one-year extension to a current ban on foreclosures on primary residences with an objective value of less than 200,000 euros.