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Tsipras in New Anti-Austerity Rhetoric

Alexis TsiprasAlexis Tsipras

After 16 months of implementing austerity measures he had once railed against, Alexis Tsipras, Greek prime minister, has returned to his old, anti-austerity campaign rhetoric.

Speaking from the southeastern Aegean island of Nisyros on Tuesday, he called the technocrats overseeing Greece’s fiscal adjustment program “silly” for failing to agree on the level of austerity Greece needs to implement, Aljazeera reported.

“In theory, we have technocrats to tell us the right numbers, but they can’t even get the numbers right,” Tsipras said. “They’ve often admitted that they’ve been wrong, but now they’re telling us again, ‘what’s wrong is right’.”

Tsipras was alluding to the International Monetary Fund’s attempts to distance itself from the latest Greek bailout, which has been financed solely by the European Stability Mechanism—the eurozone’s sovereign distress fund.

In a blog post on Monday entitled “The IMF is not asking Greece for more austerity”, Poul Thomsen, once the IMF’s iron-fisted overseer of the Greek program, said that Greece needs to modernize its economy, not cut social spending further.

“We think that these cuts have already gone too far, but the ESM program assumes even more of them,” Thomsen writes.

Thomsen highlights the IMF’s chief disagreement with the ESM in calling for a major overhaul of Greek debt, something eurozone hardliners, led by Germany, are adamantly opposed to.

“Greece’s debt is highly unsustainable and no amount of structural reforms will make it sustainable again without significant debt relief,” Thomsen said.

Taking advantage of this rift, Tsipras has now fired a broadside against the program in its entirety. Last week he promised to spend an additional half a million dollars on low-paid pensioners, although he promises to keep spending within limits agreed with creditors.

On Nisyros, he promised to suspend a sales tax hike on Aegean islands, which creditors imposed on his government last year. “I’m talking about all the islands of the North Aegean and the Dodecanese,” Tsipras said, “which are bearing the burden of the receiving and hosting (refugees).”

Among those islands is Chios, which on November 30 held a one-day strike to protest against the increase of sales tax from 17 to 24%, in line with the rest of the country.

 

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