Some 1 billion euros in pension handouts and other relief measures are to be disbursed over the coming week as the Greek government makes a last-ditch attempt to boost the ratings of leftist SYRIZA ahead of European and local authority elections next weekend.
The so-called 13th pension, one of a series of handouts unveiled by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last week and approved by MPs on Wednesday, is to be paid out to some 2.5 million pensioners imminently, while bonuses for large families and rent subsidies are to be given to more than 60,000 households between May 20 and 25, just before the May 26 elections.
Meanwhile a new scheme allowing the settlement of debts to the state, social security funds and local authorities in up to 120 installments is to come into operation over the next few days.
Even cuts to value-added tax on a range of goods and services are to come into effect in the middle of the month.
The VAT cuts and relief measures were voted into law on Wednesday by all parties though the opposition slammed the leftist government for resorting to traditional pre-election tactics to boost its sagging ratings.
The opposition grasped the opportunity to criticize the leftist government for its presentation of the measures, many of which had been in the works for months, as an emergency handout ahead of elections. “Is there a more exuberant display of panic than the way you are legislating today?” conservative New Democracy’s parliamentary spokesman, Nikos Dendias, told the House.
Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Fofi Gennimata accused Tsipras of behaving in the same way as “the old political system which he had so condemned and yet that he so resembles” by declaring pre-election handouts.
At the end of his speech, Tsipras remarked to the opposition, “I hope that for the next four years too you shall be sitting at those benches and voting for relief measures for the many that this government will bring,” a hint at yet more handouts.
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, for his part, stressed that the government was “working with a plan, a program and alliances,” an apparent response to reports that Greece’s international creditors are skeptical about the handouts.