SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has promised to repudiate Greece’s loan agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund if his party comes to power and to reverse or halt some of the measures that have already been adopted, such as the minimum wage reduction and the privatization program.
Tsipras presented his party’s economic program in Athens on Thursday on the back of a Public Issue opinion poll for Kathimerini suggesting that SYRIZA’s message is attracting 31.5 percent of Greek voters, compared to 26.5 percent for second-placed New Democracy.
“You either implement the memorandum or you cancel it,” Tsipras told party members, thereby rejecting ND and PASOK’s proposal to renegotiate the terms of the loan deal. “We are asking for Greeks to vote for us so we reject it.”
Tsipras accused Greece’s two traditionally most powerful parties of attempting to scare and blackmail voters by trying to make the June 17 election a referendum on whether the country should remain in the euro.
“The false euro-drachma dilemma has been exposed as a favour by European Union officials on behalf of friends in need who asked for help,” said Tsipras in reference to a report by Reuters earlier this week that ex-Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had asked European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to make a strong statement regarding the possibility of Greece exiting the euro.
Papademos denies he had anything to do with Barroso’s suggestion that any country who did not follow the rules could leave the single currency.
Tsipras said that this confirmed the collapse of the country’s political establishment, which he accused of corruption and inefficiency. Tsipras promised that a SYRIZA-led government would reduce the size of the cabinet, the number of consultants employed by the government and the “golden boys” hired to manage public enterprises and organizations.
However, most focus will fall on what Tsipras termed SYRIZA’s “national reconstruction plan” and the economic policies that entails.
“Immediately after cancelling the memorandum, the government will repudiate the odious terms and will ask for the renegotiation of the loan agreement,” he said.
“We will push for a new restructuring with the aim of reducing our debt or a moratorium and suspension of interest payments until the economy stabilizes and shows sign of recovery,” he said. “The debt servicing must be linked to the Greek economy’s growth rate.”
Tsipras said that a prospective SYRIZA government would also immediately repeal a 22 percent reduction of the minimum wage, raising it to 751 euros per month again, and extend unemployment benefit to two years, rather than one. It would also repeal recent labor market reforms that allow employers to negotiate individual deals with their employees if a collective contract has expired.
The other immediate goals are to scrap all emergency taxes, starting with low income earners and those living close in poverty.
Tsipras set out how his government would stabilize the economy. He said public spending would be set at between 43 and 46 percent of GDP, rather than under 36 percent as agreed in the memorandum. He said this would be paid by raising revenues from 41 percent of GDP to the eurozone average of 45. The extra revenues would be raised from taxing wealth and large incomes, the SYRIZA leader said.
The leftists would immediately suspend any cuts to social spending, pensions and public sector salaries. They would also conduct a public expenditure review and form a central state body to conduct procurements.
Tsipras proposed the creation of a register for assets for Greeks living in the country and abroad. He said anyone submitting false details would have their assets seized. SYRIZA also wants to change the tax brackets to reflect the European average and to ease pressure on low incomes. Value Added Tax would also be reduced, particularly on basic goods such as milk and bread. This would also boost consumption among low income families, Tsipras said.
The SYRIZA leader said he would make greater efforts to tackle tax evasion, including the hiring of new personnel and improving the technology available. He also plans to reach an agreement with shipowners to end the 58 tax exemptions that apply to their sector. He also called for the nationalization of all banks that are being recapitalized as part of the EU-IMF bailout.
He added that his government would use revenues from oil and gas exploration and other public assets to create a fund that woud guarantee the viability of Greece’s social security system.
Tsipras said he would also make efforts to encourage depositors to return their money to Greece and to make better use of EU regional and structural funds.
“We don’t claim that there’s plenty of money,” he said. “Greek people aren’t asking for money. They aren’t beggars. They are asking for work and the ability to meet their living expenses.
“We can guarantee that this can be achieved without the harsh cuts of the memorandum,” concluded the SYRIZA leader.