PM sets out pol­icy pri­or­i­ties as tough bud­get un­veiled

Tsipras: Ac­tion needed to spark debt talks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras set out his pol­icy pri­or­i­ties in Par­lia­ment last night just hours after Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos met with his eu­ro­zone peers in Lux­em­bourg to dis­cuss a raft of prior ac­tions that Greek au­thor­i­ties must pass into law to clinch res­cue fund­ing.

Ad­dress­ing the new Par­lia­ment, Tsipras said his gov­ern­ment’s key goals were to re­store eco­nomic sta­bil­ity, se­cure a re­turn to growth, achieve debt re­lief and “rad­i­cally re­form” the pub­lic sec­tor while crack­ing down on tax eva­sion.

“This Par­lia­ment will se­cure the coun­try’s exit from the cri­sis within the gov­ern­ment’s four-year term,” Tsipras said, main­tain­ing that the de­bate about Grexit has stopped.

The new gov­ern­ment has three key pri­or­i­ties, he said: a re­duc­tion of the debt, a re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion of the banks, and the cre­ation of the nec­es­sary en­vi­ron­ment for the at- trac­tion of for­eign in­vest­ment. “By the end of the four-year term we will have set the foun­da­tions for a new Greece,” he de­clared.

A pre­con­di­tion for th­ese goals to be achieved is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the bailout pro­gram, Tsipras said, stress­ing that it was “nec­es­sary” for the time be­ing but that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would strive “to re­store so­cial jus­tice” over its four-year term. In the mean­time, Greece must press on with a se­ries of mea­sures, not only to se­cure loans but to pave the way for the launch of talks on debt re­lief, he said.

Tsipras said he had spe­cific pro­pos­als for debt re­struc­tur­ing which Greek of­fi­cials are pre­pared to dis­cuss with cred­i­tors. Th­ese in­clude the ex­ten­sion of loan ma­tu­ri­ties, lower

in­ter­est rates and an ex­tended grace pe­riod for the re­pay­ment of bailout loans, he said.

The list of 49 prior ac­tions that the gov­ern­ment must push through Par­lia­ment in­cludes open­ing up closed pro­fes­sions, lib­er­al­iz­ing the en­ergy sec­tor, push­ing for­ward pri­va­ti­za­tions that have been agreed with cred­i­tors and in­ten­si­fy­ing a crack­down on tax eva­sion. Other un­pop­u­lar mea­sures in­clude a higher in­ter­est rate on the re­pay­ment of debts and a tax on rent pay­ments that prop­erty own­ers don’t man­age to col­lect.

Eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters signed off on the prior ac­tions at a meet­ing in Lux­em­bourg yes­ter­day where Greece’s draft bud­get also came un­der scru­tiny.

The blue­print, which was sub­mit­ted in Par­lia­ment just be­fore Tsipras’s speech in the House by Fi­nance Min­istry of­fi­cials, fore­sees the econ­omy shrink­ing by 1.3 per­cent next year, fol­low­ing an ex- pected con­trac­tion of 2.3 per­cent this year. It also ex­pects Greece to achieve a pri­mary sur­plus next year worth 0.5 per­cent of GDP and sees the cen­tral gov­ern­ment debt peak­ing at 198 per­cent of GDP next year. It said au­thor­i­ties ex­pect Greece to “grad­u­ally” re­turn to the bond mar­kets. Tsipras, in his speech in Par­lia­ment, said he hoped Greece could tap the mar­kets in 20 months.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos (l) and Al­ter­nate Min­is­ter Gior­gos Hou­liarakis con­sult an i-Pad at the start of a Eurogroup meet­ing in Lux­em­bourg yes­ter­day. Of­fi­cials dis­cussed the prior ac­tions Greece must take to un­lock loans.

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