Greek government shifts attention to public woes

Greek government shifts attention to public woes

With European officials now publicly acknowledging that Thursday’s Eurogroup will produce no concrete result for Greece, the government has shifted its attention back to domestic concerns, hoping to convince citizens that it is doing all it can to ease the impact of austerity on their daily lives.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras convened the political council of leftist SYRIZA with State ministers Alekos Flambouraris and Christoforos Vernardakis said to have presented a series of initiatives for improving the daily lives of citizens. The aim is to reduce the pressure on MPs who keep having to explain additional austerity measures to their constituents, but also to ease discontent among Greeks as official figures show that they shouldered a significant burden last year.

According to state budget figures that were made public Tuesday, Greeks paid 1.4 billion euros in additional taxes last year. The additional levies fell on businesses as well as households, with the islands of the Aegean coming under particular pressure due to the revocation of a value-added tax discount.

Tsipras and his aides are expected to try to distract from these hard facts in comments Wednesday during events being organized to mark the second anniversary of leftist SYRIZA and the right-wing Independent Greeks coming to power.

Officials must also win round the country’s creditors. Government sources believe they can get bailout talks back on track with one or two key concessions: chiefly by agreeing to extend the implementation of the automatic fiscal mechanism, known as “the cutter,” for a year beyond 2018.

In comments to reporters Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Athens wants eurozone finance ministers to “acknowledge progress” it has made under its bailout when they meet in Brussels Thursday.

Speaking in Dublin earlier Tuesday, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Thursday’s meeting would not sign off on the review though European officials hope to do so as soon as possible.

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