PM strikes optimistic note as hard tasks loom

As his government prepares for a difficult month involving more parliamentary votes and the return of troika inspectors to Athens, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought over the weekend to focus on his shaky coalition’s positive achievements – keeping Greece solvent and in the eurozone.

“In 2012 we disproved the worst-case scenarios for Greece and in 2013 we will exceed the best-case scenarios,” Samaras wrote in an op-ed in Eleftheros Typos on Saturday.

The premier said his priorities for the New Year were to boost the country’s competitiveness, get cash-strapped banks back on their feet and draw investment in order to create thousands of new jobs. Samaras added that he was keen to improve public safety by curbing rising crime and end “immunity” for the powerful and privileged, an apparent nod to growing public anger with the authorities’ failure to crack down on high-level tax evasion.

One of the government’s several tasks early in January will be to vote through Parliament a new tax bill, drafted this month, which raises levies on middle-to-high incomes, the self-employed and farmers. A more sweeping tax overhaul, expected to be drafted in the spring, is to introduce immediate jail terms for large-scale tax offenders instead of the suspended sentences currently given.