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Antonis Samaras: scenarios for a new government are a political anomaly

15 December 2013 / 14:12:03  GRReporter
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- I think that this has been answered. If you compare total tax revenues of the state to the total GDP, you will ascertain that we are near or below the European average. But there are other dimensions. A relatively large proportion of national incomes are not taxed. For the first time this year, we have reduced tax evasion, but we must be persistent, since there is still tax evasion. Thus, there are many who avoid paying, while others pay illogically large amounts. Therefore, we are expanding the tax base, so that in the end we could take a little from many, and not a lot from few people, and that of the poorest. Taxpayers were very busy in 2013, because they covered all their unpaid taxes from previous years. Thus, they were actually over taxed. But to tell the whole truth, there were a lot of tax payments in Greece this year. No matter what the statistics say, most citizens felt it. But in 2014, this will be limited and the situation will normalise. The tax burden of citizens will decrease significantly.

A wave of reforms

- High schools will remain closed for 6 months. Aren’t there wrong decisions and political responsibility?

- Allow me to point something out. We are not talking about government decisions; we are talking about the implementation of large and sustained reforms, which no one has dared to carry out so far in Greece. And even internationally... How can we talk about right and wrong decisions if this has not happened so far? We're talking about a system of "settlement" that affects not only partisan appointments, but groups of related individuals in universities who have been covered by the "autonomy" and afforded abuses for decades.

When we tried to change it, most universities agreed. However, some felt that they were above the law and refused to comply with this, until they realised that the law applies to all... We did what everybody has wanted for years... This is the main problem of reform - when things are being done for the first time, we cannot perceive them as something routine that could be done a little differently. The important thing is that reforms are taking place. And it is a little hypocritical, since no government has dared to do so, to criticize us for "timidity." And when we dared, while some of them vehemently opposed, we are criticized with statements such as "Why is it done like that, and not differently?" Here the issue is that there is courage, we have made cuts, reforms are progressing and everything is being changed.

"The main housing of the poor will be protected"

- Some have the impression that part of the leadership of the Troika is pulling the rope too much, which leads to problems in negotiations. Do you share this opinion and if so, to what do you attribute this behaviour?

- One general remark. There is not one person against us. We have three agencies: the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. And each body represents different interests and different visions. Thus, we have three different interlocutors, each with different limits. Sometimes even with a different agenda... Finally, there may be disagreements among agencies on important issues that are not related to Greece. We have always had a priority – Greece should not intervene in any disputes among creditors...

- Can you give an example?

- Of course. There is disagreement between the IMF and Europe on how to ensure debt sustainability. The IMF calls for "cutting" of the national debt. Europeans argue that this cannot be done because it needs parliamentary approval, and it is unlikely to pass in some parliaments. What we want is to fully ensure the sustainability of our debt. And it is happening - we have cut about 126 billion euro from the previous debt and about 20 billion from the future debt until 2020. We lack several billion euros in order to achieve the conventional limit of 124 % of GDP in 2020. This amount can be found in many ways: either as the IMF says, or as European institutions say. However, all of them have set as a prerequisite for Greece to achieve a primary surplus. And we have succeeded this year, earlier than they expected! Therefore, they promised to help us, we have fulfilled the requirements for receiving this extra help; they all agree that we should receive aid, but they cannot reach an agreement among themselves on how to do this. I do not want to interfere in this dispute. But its continuation affects us. However, I believe that it will be resolved in the coming months in a satisfactory way...

- Should we stay in negotiations? The question of the Greek defence systems is of paramount importance for the tranche in July. Auctions will follow, as well as the availability mode and cuts in the public sector. How will you act if there is no agreement?

Tags: Antonis Samaras interview political scenarios elections
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