Tsipras on prime-time newscast: Austerity measures won't be taken unless debt relief extended

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 22:50
UPD:23:03
REUTERS/MICHALIS KARAGIANNIS

Tsipras, who rode to power on the back of a virulently anti-bailout and anti-austerity rhetoric, said his government faced demands for austerity measures that were 42 times greater than ultimately necessary.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took to the prime-time airwaves on Tuesday evening to again warn that his coalition government won't implement a new round of austerity measures if debt relief isn't extended to the country.

"We'll vote for the measures in order to get a solution for the debt," he told a news anchor on the Athens television station Ant1 on Tuesday.

The leftist-rightist government earlier this month bowed to creditors' demands and agreed, in principle, to implement more pension cuts in 2019 and to lower the tax-free annual income threshold in 2020 -- two painful and wide-ranging measures mostly demanded by the IMF in order to ensure that ambitious fiscal targets after 2018 - mostly demanded by European creditors - are met.

Tsipras, who rode to power on the back of a virulently anti-bailout and anti-austerity rhetoric, said his government faced demands for austerity measures that were 42 times greater than ultimately necessary. He qualified this statement by pointing to IMF forecasts in juxtaposition with the actual primary budget surplus for 2016, which preliminary figures say exceeds 4.0 percent of GDP.

Despite raging opposition and media criticism of a "tax tsunami" of direct and indirect tax hikes implemented in 2016, including higher VAT rates and increases on practically every good and service in the country, Tsipras maintained that "tax rates are the same, only marginally higher than they were before."

In reference to the unprecedented 2016 surplus, the leftist prime minister even used a religious metaphor, saying that "... I Cross myself (over the fact) that we reached this surplus ... if we hadn't reached it, we'd be like a ping pong ball between (IMF Managing Director Christine) Lagarde and (German FinMin Wolfgang) Schaeuble."

Additionally, he deflected criticism that his coalition government, which is propped up by the small rightist-populist AN.EL party, is to blame for a more than year-long delay in concluding the second review of the Greek program. Tsipras said it was the institutions' fault, i.e. the institutional creditors. He also said that losses in negotiations are offset by countervailing measures his government hopes to take after 2018.

Regular general elections are scheduled for 2019 in Greece, although Tsipras personally, and his ruling leftist SYRIZA party, are now trailing center-right New Democracy (ND) by double-digit percentage points in all mainstream opinion polls.

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