The climbdown from Greece's radical policy agenda

GMT 22:25 2015 Friday ,10 July

Arab Today, arab today The climbdown from Greece's radical policy agenda

Greek parliament in Athens
Athens - AFP

The Greek radical left Syriza government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras startled supporters by submitting on Friday a cuts-loaded package to secure a new eurozone bailout, barely a week after holding a referendum that rejected further austerity.

In five months of negotiation with EU-IMF creditors since its election in January, the Syriza government has moved a long way from its electoral promises to wipe out the country's huge debt, raise wages and restore labour rights.

Here is a comparison between the main differences in Syriza's campaign promises, and the government's proposals made early Friday:


Syriza based much of its campaign on the pledge to abolish a vastly unpopular property tax named ENFIA.

But as this very property tax rakes in an estimated 2.6 billion euros a year, the government has abandoned these plans and will keep the tax in place, with adjustments, until the end of 2016.

In accordance with creditor desires, the leftists have also pledged to increase luxury tax, corporate tax and gradually abolish tax breaks on Greek islands, a measure they had earlier steadfastly opposed.

Tsipras' party had repeatedly insisted that pensions would never be cut on its watch in a country where according to the government, 60 percent of pensioners receive a net pension of under 700 euros a month -- placing them below or close to the European poverty line -- and often have to support unemployed family members.

Nevertheless, on Friday the government increased health contributions for pensioners from 4.0 to 6.0 percent and pledged to penalise early retirement.


Syriza came to power planning to scrap most of the country's pending privatisation tenders, including the sale of the Piraeus port authority that keenly interests Chinese shipping giant Cosco.

After five months of haggling, the leftists managed to save Greece's state electricity provider PPC from being sold off, but had to back down on all other fronts.

As a result, the sale of regional airports, the port authorities of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, electricity maintenance operator ADMIE and state railway services provider Trainose will proceed as planned.


Tsipras campaigned on the promise to "erase" most of Greece's public debt of over 312 billion euros, much like a generous portion of Germany's postwar debt was forgiven by the Allies, including Greece, in 1953.
Government-appointed parliament chief Zoe Constantopoulou even put together a committee that in June declared that the debt was "odious" and "illegal" and should not be repaid.

Though the IMF has long pushed for a reduction to make the debt sustainable, many European creditors, with Germany chief among them, have ruled out the prospect as Greece already benefited from a debt write-down in 2012.

Tsipras has abandoned hopes for an outright debt cut, but is hoping to secure concessions to further facilitate debt repayment through longer maturity and lower interest rates.


Syriza was largely indifferent to military spending -- and at one point even advocated that Greece should leave NATO -- until they partnered up with the nationalist-populist Independent Greek (ANEL) party to form a government in January.

With ANEL leader Panos Kammenos taking the defence ministry post, the leftists found themselves in an awkward position, defending the size of the military budget amid creditor demands that they trim spending by 400 million euros this year.

On Friday, Athens proposed reducing military spending by 100 million euros this year and 200 million euros in 2016.


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