As government officials prepared to return to their constituencies for the Easter break, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday sought to prepare them for the criticism they are likely to face from their supporters following concessions made to the country’s lenders.
Addressing his ministers at a cabinet meeting, Tsipras insisted that a deal reached last week between eurozone finance ministers, determining the “overarching elements” of economic reforms that must be implemented to unlock further rescue loans, was “defensible in its entirety.”
A major victory, he claimed, was that the International Monetary Fund withdrew or watered down some of its original demands such as calls for tougher labor market rules.
Tsipras repeated that the measures agreed to by the government – essentially pension cuts and tax hikes – would result in a “zero fiscal balance” thanks to a set of countermeasures Athens will be allowed to enforce, if it meets budget targets, to offset the impact of austerity.
Acknowledging that “we have pressure from society due to austerity,” he claimed that the broad agreement reached last week could ultimately boost the government. “It can lead to political success and a new electoral victory.”
Tsipras suggested that the following weeks would bring positive developments, once the technical details of an agreement are reached to conclude the current bailout review. He spoke of “a golden opportunity after the conclusion of the agreement,” widely interpreted as a reference to the prospects for Greek bonds to be included in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program.
The premier stressed that growth is the next big challenge and identified energy, transport, logistics, tourism and agriculture as the sectors of priority. He vowed to pursue investments, noting that an official visit to China scheduled for mid-May would be an opportunity for him to drum up investment interest.
Later on Thursday, opposition New Democracy dismissed Tsipras’s speech to his cabinet as “an admission to his failed policies.” In comments in Parliament on Wednesday, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government was “ridiculous” and reiterated calls for snap elections.