“We are still here, after four-and-a-half years of struggle, the struggle to keep Greece standing upright,” is how main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras started his speech at the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday evening.
The former Greek prime minister said that when SYRIZA became leaders of the Greek government (in January 2015) “the country was amidst a humanitarian crisis, unemployment was stuck at 27 percent after eight consecutive years of compacted economic recession, with the country losing cumulatively 25 percent of its wealth, with banks on the verge of collapse, empty (social insurance) funds, an inability to handle public debt and a total deregulation of the labor market,” Tsipras recounted.
The SYRIZA leader said Greece’s problems were not “magically solved,” but “the country’s image has changed radically and no one can deny it,” he said.
“Within a very short time, we succeeded where the old political system had failed after three successive governments,” he continued.
Tsipras said that during his term, his government reduced primary surplus targets, put an end to the need for fiscal adjustment directives, reduced unemployment by 10 percentage points and created 675,000 new jobs by June 2019, tackled undeclared/untaxed work, raised the minimum wage, brought back collective labor agreements, and as he put it summarily “brought the Greek economy back on track.”
“We returned to financial markets with the Greek bond marking a historic low already in January 2019,” said Tsipras and “with prudent management we created an unprecedented security reserve of 37 billion euros, that safeguards the country from external disturbances and creates great flexibility, as long as it is used properly,” he underlined.
On SYRIZA’s additional performance when in government, Tsipras reported a 30 percent reduction on the single property tax (ENFIA) for small and medium-sized properties, self-employment insurance contributions from 20 percent to 13.3 percent, a rent subsidy for 300,000 households, the subsidizing of insurance contributions for young workers up to 25 years old and the reduction of corporate taxation by 1 percent.
Furthermore, he mentioned 7,000 staff hires for the Home Assistance and Special Needs programs, and raising the minimum wage from 586 euros to 650 euros and also abolishing the half-wage. “Everything that SYRIZA had promised, materialized one by one,” Tsipras noted.
On the two months of New Democracy rule, Tsipras said he sees “an authoritarian, anti-social, anti-working-rights regime. A regime with zero respect for the rules, be they parliamentary rules, rules of democracy, or rules of justice.”
“The country has a new government, but it also has a strong, very strong opposition,” Tsipras stressed, and added “how one-third of Greeks gave a vote of confidence to SYRIZA in a very difficult election battle (July 7),” therefore, he said “we are here as the strong democratic and progressive pole (of opposition.) The great democratic and progressive movement, the great movement of the Left,” he said.
In an apologetic tone, Tsipras said that “we have shown an unwillingness to act faster and more decisively to take relief, anti-austerity measures,” and went on to say that “a second point of self-criticism concerns our determination to address issues related to the functioning of the state,” and that his government “did not demonstrate the courage it needed to break through the para-centers of power in branches of the government and beyond, from ministries and banks to the audit authorities and the judiciary,” he related.
Returning to the issues at hand, the SYRIZA leader said that “we are not going to let things cancel out our collective achievements,” and added that even though the economy is now positive and “the black days of bankruptcy are behind us,” Tsipras warned that “this picture-perfect is not a given, as “there is an unstable, fluid international climate (in politics and society).”
(Source: Athens – Macedonian News Agency)