NEWS

Tsipras defends agreement, vows debt relief, catharsis

TAGS: Politics, Health, Economy

In a tense session in Parliament on Wednesday, which approved the government’s proposal for a House investigation into corruption in the health sector, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to defend a broad agreement reached between Greece and its creditors, decried by the opposition as “a total disaster.”

In a dig at the opposition, which condemned the government for excluding its two years in power from the health probe, Tsipras declared that his administration was brought in by Greeks who were fed up with the corruption of previous governments.

“The Greek people decided that you should leave...and the investigation of these cases was one of the basic motives for that decision,” Tsipras said, adding that his government would spend the last two years of its term exposing and punishing graft.

Dismissing the government as “wretched” and “ridiculous,” opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated calls for snap elections. “You made the country sink and instead of throwing a life vest to citizens, you are trying to drown them.”

Tsipras, for his part, defended the deal reached last week – setting out the “overarching elements” of reforms that need to be finalized before a current bailout review can be concluded and further rescue loans disbursed. He insisted that new measures – pension cuts and tax hikes – would have a “negative fiscal impact” and paved the way for further debt relief.

With bailout monitors set to return to Athens soon, Tsipras’s next move is to brief his ministers on what strategy should be followed when negotiations resume. That is expected to be the focus of discussions on Thursday when Tsipras chairs a cabinet meeting.

In a related development, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday that Greece was heading in the right direction on reforms but talks on its third bailout and the IMF’s potential role in it were “only halfway through.”

“We are still elaborating under what terms we could possibly give some lending to the country.

We are not there yet,” Lagarde said, adding any IMF loan to Greece would come with strict terms.

She repeated that debt restructuring was needed. The scope of the restructuring “will be decided at the end of the program,” but “the modalities have to be decided upfront,” she said.

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