By Yiannis Makriyiannis
A long, tough and dramatic turn in negotiations between Greece and its partners appears to be nearing its end. Facing the pressure of an economic meltdown and banking collapse, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) government decided to proceed in a painful compromise with fiscal measures of more than 12 billion euros over the next three years in exchange of a cash-for-reforms deal that includes a debt write-off and access to funds for development.
The process for the completion of the new deal and new bailout package to cover the funding needs of the next three-year period will be passed through with express procedures though it is – to say the least – controversial.
The proposal was tabled by the parliament’s legislative service and then sent to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) at around midnight on Thursday. Officials of the three institutions representing Greece’s lenders from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund are examining the proposals and will submit them to the Euro Working Group and Eurogroup on Friday.
The document with the proposals is posted to Greek Parliament’s webpage and added to Friday’s daily agenda, so that the plenum can decide – at around 2 p.m. – with emergency procedures on whether to authorize Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos to negotiate the proposal.
The measures are to be voted on in Greek Parliament after they are approved by Greece’s creditors. There may be counter-proposals and amendments to the initial proposals when eurozone finance ministers meet at the Eurogroup on Saturday morning and will be finalized during the European Council on Sunday afternoon.
The Greek proposal has caused a firestorm within the ruling party with wrangling as the Left Platform is opposed to the proposals that differ little from creditors proposals that spurred the July 5 referendum. Already, chief of the group’s left faction, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis expressed his opposition to the proposals during Thursday night’s government council. He refused to sign the document as he believes that the measures would not respond to Greece’s problems, clipping the prospects of Greece.
SYRIZA’s Left Platform that includes four ministers and a number of deputies, headed by Lafazanis, had meetings until late last night so as to decide on the stand they plan to take.
Possible dissent by the faction will prompt new political developments. Junior coalition party member, Independent Greeks (ANEL), headed by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos also refused to sign the Greek proposals appearing perplexed and reserved.
On his part, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made it clear that he considers the agreement to be necessary. He points to positive points in the proposals such as fiscal adjustment for larger incomes and taxing shipowners. The proposals are marginally wrose than the previous proposals sent to creditors, but slightly better than those that creditors had suggested that lead the country to the July 5 referendum.
Key points, according to the government:
1. The Greek proposal submitted to the ESM concerns the funding needs of the country from 01/07/2015 έως τις 30/06/2018 – three years, and includes debt restructuring and an additional development package worth 35 billion euros.
2. The primary surplus levels [1%, 2% and 3% of the GDP] will be re-examined as the situation has changed.
3. Basic food items and hotel VAT rates are at 13%. The lower VAT for islands will be kept until the end of 2016 except for the more touristy islands. The abolition of tax exemptions for isolated islands will take place at 2016 after a compensation mechanism for permanent residents is created. VAT rates will be re-examined at the end of 2016.
4. The Social Solidarity Pension Benefit (EKAS) will continue to apply until January 2020 when a new social welfare framework will replace it.
5. Postponement of the zero deficit clause until October 2015 when new legislation wil be voted on.
6. Steady abolition of the special tax rate for farmers with an index to gas funding to be absorbed by the drop in international prices.
7. An increase to the corporate tax from 26% to 28%.
8. A new proposal for tax evasion.
9. Creation of property chart.
10. A new law on group contract negotiations to be ready in the last quarter of 2015.
11. Market changes with bureaucracy to change one stop shop and keeping current situation for medicine, bread, milk and Sunday shopping.
12. A reduction in contribution for medicine, books, theater tickets to 5% from 6.5%.
13. Tax evasion to enter the penal code.
14. Increased tax for shipping businesses and the abolition of priveleges for shipping tycoons.
15. Luxury tax increases and the inclusion of yachts for recreational purposes in the list of luxury items.
16. Immediate application of tax for television commercials.
17. OECD collaboration in new regulations for breaking cartels on wholesale trade, construction, media, etc.