By G. Hatzilidis
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras again referred to "tax breaks" next year, 2019, a year in which a general election can come no later than the autumn, unless the former decides on a snap poll in the meantime.
Speaking in Thessaloniki at a general assembly of the northern Greece industrialists' association - as opposed to the nationwide Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) - he expressed "certainty" that "the current credibility of the country's public finances" offers the opportunity for "targeted" tax breaks.
Tsipras was responding to earlier statements by Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) President Athanasios Savvakis, who expressed his grave concern over what he called "over-taxation" now burdening the recovering Greek economy.
Tsipras and his poll-trailing leftist-rightist coalition government have promised reduced tax rates next year, more than two years after designing and unleashing (in 2017) a "tax tsunami" aimed at meeting memorandum-mandated annual fiscal targets, especially primary budget surpluses as a percentage of GDP.
"The more the economy stabilizes and remains in high rates of growth, the more it offers us an opportunity to proceed with (tax) relief, with a permanent reduction in tax rates, and of course, ones affecting individual taxpayers," he said.
Tsipras said the specific announcement of whatever tax breaks, for 2019, at the annual state-of-the-economy address given by Greek premiers at the inauguration of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in early September.
In a related development, Tsipras' attack, from SBBE's podium, against SEV, raised eyebrows among participants. The Greek prime minister said SEV's recent attempts to "intervene" in the public debate over scheduled austerity measures in 2019 and 2020, providing a "signal", as he said, over the necessity of implementing them - and regardless of whether his government is meeting annual fiscal goals.
"SEV almost always calls for greater anti-social and anti-growth measures (compared to the ones demanded by creditors), in this case, another round of pension cuts."
The current coalition government has agreed, with creditors, to implement social security cuts as of Jan. 1, 2019, a massive political "hot potato" that it must manage in an election year. Several top ministers and leftist SYRIZA party MPs and cadres have recently hinted at a suspension or even a complete avoidance of the pending austerity measure, whereas top European and Eurozone officials have, at every turn, emphasized the need to implement agreed-to reforms.