NEWS

PM seeks to reverse tide with handout promises

pm-seeks-to-reverse-tide-with-handout-promises

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to announce a fresh round of handouts and benefits in what is viewed as a last-ditch effort to bridge the growing gap with opposition New Democracy in opinion polls ahead of European and local elections later this month.

Tsipras is expected to announce on Monday, or at the latest within the week, a series of relief measures to the tune of 1.2 billion euros, which amounts to the surplus for this year, as foreseen in the Stability Program through 2022 drafted by the government.

According to reports, the measures will comprise a mix of social benefits, like a 13th pension, and tax breaks. What’s more, the measures will be permanent and not one-off bonuses.

However, the benefits that Tsipras will announce are not expected, initially at least, to expend the entire 1.2-billion-euro sum, so as to avoid friction with creditors who are concerned that Greece could be derailed from the path to achieving a 3.5 percent surplus in 2019.

This concern carries more weight given Greece’s imminent plans to tap international markets.

Bearing these constraints in mind, government officials had reportedly mulled a one-off Easter bonus, but the idea appeared to be headed for the scrap heap on the grounds that it would foil an ambitious bid by ruling leftist SYRIZA to make inroads in the so-called political center by shedding its image of a “handouts” party.

Reservations about a one-off Easter benefit were also prompted by the concern that SYRIZA would be accused of pursuing socially friendly policies for political gain ahead of elections.