Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the newly appointed ministers that “join forces with us in this crucial phase,” during his opening speech at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
The prime minister said that the national effort that began four years ago for the country exit from the crisis has always had a clear social and political stamp, rallying around forces and persons from the entire democratic spectrum “that do not belong only to the leftist area but also come from the area of social-democracy, ecology and popular centre-right”.
Referring to the course of the economy, Tsipras said that Greece is progressing “steadily and securely on the road to recovery and is now a permanent source of good news for the international media.”
“The Greek economy is recovering and the European Commission has upgraded its forecast for the Greek economy for 2019,” said Tsipras, addressing the cabinet.
“We are consolidating the trust and credibility in the country on the international stage,” he said, adding that “Greece today is a European example of success, to which all our partners refer with flattering comments at all European fora.”
The prime minister noted that at the previous cabinet meeting he had announced the country’s first return to the markets after the end of the programmes, noting that “this return to the market was completed so successfully that the yield of the Greek 10-year bond is not just returned to pre-crisis levels but at the levels it was in 2000.”
Referring to the Constitutional revision, Tsipras underlined that the first phase of the process will concluded in a month, noting that all the government’s proposals are being accepted, marking an important parliamentary and institutional victory.
On fiscal expansion measures announced at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September, he referred to a package of measures to support income and provide tax relief that is part of an overall strategy “to redress the injustices of the memoranda,” noting that “the sum of the measures announced are now laws of state.”
He referred to the reduction of the Real Estate Property Tax (ENFIA) by 30 pct for the small properties, the abolition of the business tax for cooperatives and farmers in cooperatives and a 50 pct subsidy of young workers’ insurance contributions.
Among policies that remain to be implemented, Tsipras said, was that of a rent-support benefit that “constitutes the first organised effort for the country to acquire, for the first time in its history, a comprehensive housing policy.” The prime minister noted that this would be one of the central features of the new social state that “we have started to build”.
“Today we are ready. This programme is literally a breakthrough for Greece, which due to the special characteristics in the housing market but mostly due to the former governments’ indifference during the crisis, which failed to address the housing problem that hundreds of thousands of families started to face after 2010,” he said.
He noted that the shrinking of family incomes by 40 percent during the disastrous period in 2010-2015 led the family cost for housing to huge heights and Greece, for the first time, began to face a serious social housing problem”.
From the first moment that the government came to power, he added, it adopted measures that acted as a strong bulwark against the then growing tide of foreclosures.
“Today the time has come to take the next big step and start building a comprehensive horizontal policy to establish an effective system for the social protection of primary residences,” said Tsipras.
The prime minister said this policy pivoted around two main axis: The rent benefits programme with a total annual budget of 300 million euros, already secured in the budget, that concerns 260,000 households and 667,000 people and the loan-subsidy programme agreed with banks the previous week.
The rent benefit will increase in line with income and the number of family members, starting from 70 euros and reaching up to 210 euros per month. A very serious parameter, according to Tsipras, is the fact that children are counted as adults in calculating income criteria and the amount of rent assistance, a policy which is added to the other horizontal measures adopted for the support of children.
“These policies are being implemented in an organised, serious and horizontal way, as behooves a country that wants to build a modern and effective social state that is centred on children,” he added.
Regarding the loan subsidy programme, Tsipras explained that this is a programme for households that have “non-performing” mortgage loans and aims “to protect the primary residence of low and middle-class strata and also support the banking system in the major social effort for the reduction of the percentage of the bad loans.”
Tsipras said that the programme’s total annual budget is 200 million euros and concerns 180,000 household and 460,000 citizens. According to this programme, the state will undertake to subsidise the mortgage payments and the banks will undertake to use all the tools at their disposal, based on both international rules and domestic legislation, in order to lower the amount of the loan installments, such as lowering interest rates, extending the repayment period and others.
Concluding, Tsipras said that the government is moving towards the implementation of a carefully prepared plan:
“This period we are making our first steady steps to exit the eight-year crisis and we are creating the conditions that allow the country to put the causes of its decline and bankruptcy behind it and move forward into the future with confidence, solidarity and justice.”
He urged the ministers to intensify their efforts ‘in these crucial eight months before the national elections, that will be held early October.” At that time, he added, “we will be judged by the Greek people, who will be able to make a comparison between the state of the country when we took over and where it will be in the autumn of 2019.”