NEWS

PM eyes relief from austerity, post-memorandum plan

Opening the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to announce a series of tax breaks as well as a long-term growth plan in a bid to win round austerity-weary citizens and boost the fortunes of his coalition government as the leftist opposition remains intent on forcing early elections.

Samaras is expected to make certain concrete pledges during his address, unveiling tax-lightening measures including reductions to a levy on heating oil and to a solidarity tax on income.

He is also likely to unveil changes to a new single property tax (ENFIA) which had caused public anger when it was introduced as miscalculations had resulted in thousands of homeowners facing disproportionately large bills.

And sources said he will probably announce that those owing tax or social security debts can pay then off in up to 100 installments.

Apart from the tax relief, Samaras is also expected to present a plan for boosting growth and modernizing institutions, looking forward to a revision of the Constitution.

The measures are being presented without the final seal of approval of troika representatives. But the government has deemed such an announcement to be justified not only due to above-target revenue collection this year but also due to the political risk of not offering concessions to disenchanted voters. With SYRIZA intent on forcing early elections in February by blocking the coalition’s proposed candidate for president, Samaras is keen to demonstrate that his government is in a position to pledge relief after four years of austerity.

It is likely that the troika will not raise objections to the tax relief as long as the government presents equivalent measures to offset the revenue that will be lost from the tax cuts. It remains unclear what those alternative measures will be but the matter is expected to be discussed in the coming weeks as the draft budget is prepared.

The budget for next year was a key focus of talks in Paris earlier this week between government officials and troika representatives, along with the progress of reforms. Greece’s funding needs and its debt are to be examined at a meeting in Washington in mid-November, according to reports that said the initiative was proposed by the International Monetary Fund.

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