Photo - Kathimerini
Maria S. Topalova
Being a voter in Eastern Europe and having survived the transition from centralized to market economy is a great school. It has vaccinated people against any kind of populism forever, it has taught them that the simplest solutions are not really solutions, it has shown that if one does not take his life into his hands, the state will never do it for him. If one has experienced shock therapy in the former Soviet bloc, nobody can deceive him, that he will bring an economy out of the recession to economic growth merely by taking from his right sleeve a few billion from EMPA or any fund of the European Union.
That is why it would have been very difficult for the leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, to win with his speech today the audiences from Eastern Europe. It is not that he said something wrong. On the contrary. He simply could not convince us that his words will not remain only good intentions. Currently in Greece there is hardly a politician who does not want to lead the country out of the recession and take it on the path to sustainable economic growth. What should be done is also not a mystery. The question is who has the political will to carry out the painful reforms, and it is precisely this question that Antonis Samaras did not answer.
The election campaign of New Democracy includes tax cuts - according to the world economists, this is the first condition for the restoration of growth of the GDP. The idea sounds very tempting to the embittered Greek taxpayers. He also proposed the introduction of a flat tax of 15% for all legal entities and the highest rate for individuals to be 32%. At the same time, however, he also proposed to increase the tax on profit and he didn’t say a word about the extraordinary tax "Solidarity", which has actually become a regular one already. Actually, it was New Democracy that was the first party, which introduced the practice of extraordinary taxes, when before the elections in 2009 the government of Costas Karamanlis introduced a tax for people with high-income in order to give away free laptops to pupils in secondary schools. This, of course, did not prevent his election loss in October of that year, nor did it make the educational system in Greece any better.
It was proposed to reduce VAT to 19 per cent, and for tourist packages to 5 percent. The national budget, however has been drawn up based on different tax variables, so what will compensate for the loss of tax revenue, was not specified. At the same time Antonis Samaras promised that wages and pensions would not be further reduced, and the 13th and 14th salary would not be taken away. As is known, the largest item in state budget are the costs for salaries and pensions. Either they must be reduced or the number of people who receive them must be reduced. The leader of New Democracy did not announce that there will be layoffs of state employees. But even if he had said it, why should voters necessarily believe him, since it was precisely his party that was responsible for the big boom in public appointments over the years 2004-2009?
Part of the campaign of the blue party before the elections on 6th of May was designed for the property owners. Thousands of families are awaiting the repeal of the mass property tax for first residential housing as it is an unfair tax burden on low-income people. Samaras agreed that it is unfair and promised to replace it with a new property tax that will be determined by a new law. He announced not the legalization, but a new "final settlement" of the illegal construction, which expects revenues of at least 9 billion euro in the next 4 years. However who can guarantee that the illegal construction will continue at the same rate? Will at least one illegally built property be demolished, even if only for the edification of others?
Our old acquaintances, the banks, were also rebuked for not providing liquidity to the market. But their recapitalization is completed and they are taking money that Mario Draghi has been giving away from Frankfurt, everything will be fine and the government will push them to reduce interest rates. Antonis Samaras announced a three-year grace period for housing loans for first homes to people who are unemployed. He heroically announced that he will fight cartels on the market and will destroy monopolies, but he said nothing about the liberalization of the labour market and how he will deal with opening of the professions. On the one hand he said he was in favour of attracting foreign investment, but on the other, he did not say what was so wrong if, for example, foreign capital were invested in Greek banks.
He declared with pathos that he is against a coalition with PASOK, arguing that he cannot reduce the taxes, together with those who increased them and he cannot reduce government spending with those who said that "there is money". Whom he will govern with, however, was not clear.