There was tension this morning as teachers unions rallied outside the “Ioannis Vellidis” Conference Center, where the opening ceremony of the 79th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) took place and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras delivered his speech.
Samaras also faced frustrated state bond holders who have lost their money when the government decided to decrease their value. The bondholders’ union gathered at the fair’s entrance and demanded the compensation promised by the state. “We are close to committing suicide,” a bondholder shouted at the Prime Minister.
In his speech, Samaras clarified that he will not jeopardize anything that Greek society has achieved so far, while he attacked SYRIZA. He accused the opposition party for trying to halt efforts to exit the crisis by demanding early elections.
The Greek PM spoke of “major changes still to come,” primarily the end of over-taxation. He promised a 30% reduction in heating oil tax and maintaining the heating oil state allowances for the financially weak, more installments for repaying debts to the state and a reduction on the solidarity levy.
Regarding the unified property tax (ENFIA), he admitted that the government “made mistakes which caused justifiable uproar. We corrected them and those who made the mistakes will answer for it. The ENFIA will be reduced on vacant houses. Now, there is a unified database for real estate property. The levy will be reduced gradually and in a few years, ENFIA will bring in revenues to local governments.”
For the men and women in uniform, the PM said that the decision of the State Council will remain without overturning the figures foreseen in the state budget.
Opposition parties reaction
Opposition parties reacted strongly to Samaras’ speech, accusing him of making fake promises to Greek citizens.
Main opposition party SYRIZA issued an announcement stating that, “In today’s speech in TIF, Mr. Samaras outdid himself in audacity and populism. Giving away “crumbs” as tax cuts, which he has already collected, powerless to utter any meaningful change on policy. Mr. Samaras resorted to the familiar techniques of optimism injection and lies, in a country bleeding from the memoranda and austerity.”
Democratic Left (DIMAR) party stated the following: “The beautification of the current situation, marking the speech of the Prime Minister in TIF, cannot disguise the need for radical change in policy. The depletion of citizens’ taxpaying ability cannot be cured with corrections, but with a new, fair tax system. The country needs a new economic policy mix that will pull the economy from the doldrums of recession.”
Government spokesperson Sofia Voutepsi reacted to SYRIZA’s statements and said the following: “SYRIZA’s embarrassment is unique. Those who are devoted to a series of lies and populism have completely run out of arguments and proposals. Not having any more deceptive promises to share, regurgitate the same old thing. Hopefully there, in the beautiful surroundings of Lake Como and the noble Villas d’Este, Mr. Tsipras will come up with some more realistic and fresh ideas.”
Samaras’ speech and pledges
“We are proceeding to interventions on enhancing competitiveness of SMEs. We are moving to lower electricity tariffs for energy-intense businesses. We are also exploring the possibility of creating special economic zones.”
Samaras launched a direct attack against SYRIZA, accusing them of trying to clip the wings off the country when it’s about to “take off.” He also accused them of trying to take advantage of the upcoming presidential elections to throw the country into disarray. That they refuse any form of privatization, threaten investors and ask that Greece should leave NATO. Samaras reiterated that if Greece was not in NATO, no one would have been able to tell Erdogan yesterday that there is one, single, unified Cyprus.
In replying to accusations from opposition parties, the PM said that “Greece will be receiving an official certification that its debt is viable within the next few months. For the first time, even marginally, the debt will be reduced to a specific number and the GDP’s rise will be revealed soon. Interest rates on loans are the lowest around. On that, there was a veritable ‘orgy’ of propaganda and misinformation. The best reply was that we entered the international markets one year earlier than expected.”