PM shifts focus to prior actions
Tsipras to rally ministers, party on tough bill; IMF chief says reform, debt relief conditions for joining program
A day after securing a parliamentary vote of confidence in his government, from his coalition MPs, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday shifted his attention to a much tougher challenge: the barrage of prior actions that must be legislated by mid-October to secure rescue loans.
Tsipras is said to have asked his ministers to submit details of the measures that fall within their remit today so a bill can be drafted and submitted in Parliament early next week. In the meantime, he will seek to overcome any objections within SYRIZA, chairing a central committee meeting tomorrow and Sunday.
With the opposition parties having made it clear, during the three-day debate on the government’s policy program, that they will not support additional austerity measures unconditionally, Tsipras can only hope for the support of the 155 coalition MPs in the 300-member House. But the backing of all of them is far from certain. Two coalition MPs – Costas Barkas of SYRIZA and Nikos Nikolopoulos of the rightwing Independent Greeks – reacted angrily to reports that the 49 prior actions would be brought to Parliament in one article. In comments to Skai, government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili suggested this would not be the case.
The list of prior actions includes the liberalization of closed professions and markets, the finalization of plans to privatize Greece’s regional airports and measures aimed at curbing tax evasion. A second list of measures, linked to another loan worth 1 billion euros, will be tougher, with delayed pension reforms and increased farmers’ taxes on the agenda. Farmers are already planning protests. Authorities also have Greece’s creditors to contend with. Technical staff have returned to Athens ahead of a review that Tsipras said he wants to conclude by the end of November to pave the way for talks on debt relief.
Greece’s European creditors oppose the idea of debt relief, but the International Monetary Fund regards it as indispensible. Speaking yesterday at an IMF meeting in Lima, the Fund’s chief Christine Lagarde said that for the IMF to join Greece’s economic program, the program “must stand on two legs.” The first leg should comprise “significant reforms, particularly on the pension front and in bank governance,” she said, and the second “a debt operation that renders Greek debt sustainable in our assessment.”