Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Saturday vowed to pursue reforms while gradually lowering taxes as central planks of a programme he hopes will secure victory in January 25 elections. “Our national plan … in 2015-2021 includes reforms to boost growth and competitiveness, ” the prime minister of the centre-right coalition told hundreds of ministers and supporters of his conservative New Democracy party.
Previous interruptions to that reform programme were due to cleaning up the public sector and to aid investment and competitiveness, he told his audience in an Athens hotel. Samaras and his party are running behind leftist leader Alexis Tsipras and his radical Syriza party in the opinion polls, ahead of the snap parliamentary elections.
The prime minister praised the reform work his coalition has done over the past two and a half years to prevent Greece from leaving the eurozone. But global markets have plunged at the beginning of last week, seized by a fresh bout of fears that Greece may be forced to abandon the euro if Syriza came to power. The far-left Syriza party wants to abandon the austerity policy imposed by the EU and IMF as part of the country’s 240-billion-euro ($282 billion) international bailout.
Greece has seen some improvement in its public finances under the current coalition, returning to economic growth last year after six painful years of recession, thanks to the deep and deeply unpopular reforms required by the international creditors. However he stressed that the timid return to growth had not yet permeated through to the public at large, with the unemployment rate still the highest in the eurozone at 25 percent and with one in five people deemed to be living in poverty.
To address those problems Samaras promised “a social state and a safety net” for the poorest households, aided by the gradual reduction in taxes on revenues and on housing. These measures, he stressed, would not mean a return to public deficits.
“It is a Greece of growth and not of populism which is going to prevail,” he added. EU forecasts from November tip the Greek economy to grow by 2.9 percent in 2015.