Government officials on Monday sought to put a positive spin on a new barrage of tough economic measures pledged to the country’s creditors in a debate in Parliament that is expected to become increasingly tense ahead of a vote expected on Thursday night.
Addressing the House’s economic affairs committee, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos admitted that the multi-bill, which foresees nearly 5 billion euros in new austerity measures, was far from ideal but indicated that it was a step in the right direction.
“We are not in the world we want right now,” he said. “Our basic struggle is to reduce oversight, our key aim to emerge from tough stewardship,” he said.
Tsakalotos added that a slew of so-called countermeasures, foreseeing social benefits for lower-income Greeks, would basically offset the new austerity, and spent much of his speech focusing on the issue of child poverty in Greece and noting that the leftist-led government planned to increase free school meals and subsidize the rents of poor families.
Finance Ministry sources indicated meanwhile that the countermeasures are worth some 7.5 billion euros, outweighing the 4.9 billion euros in austerity measures.
Labor and Social Security Minister Effie Achtsioglou remarked that the government’s deal with creditors had “zero fiscal impact.”
The rhetoric failed to move representatives of opposition parties across the political spectrum, who hurled scathing criticism at the government for bringing more painful measures after years of austerity including further cuts to pensions and tax increases.
Prominent conservative New Democracy MP Christos Staikouras accused the government of “destroying the middle class, shifting the burden onto the weak and razing society.”
He added that while the austerity measures set out in the bill were certain to be enforced, the countermeasures will only apply if Greece hits budget targets in 2019.
According to sources close to Alexis Tsipras, however, the prime minister indicated on Sunday, following talks with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde in China, that the measures that are to be voted on in the Greek Parliament on Thursday will not be implemented if the IMF does not end up supporting Greece’s third bailout.
The IMF is awaiting a decision on debt relief for Greece before it commits to backing the third program.