The major national wager for the day after the crisis is “to not let the recent sacrifices of the people go to waste. This battle can be won if the necessary moves are made starting now,” said main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday, presenting the party’s programme “#MenoumeOrthioi” (Staying on our Feet) that foresees a set of “direct, costed and realistic measures against the repercussions of the pandemic on the businesses and the workers.”
In a press briefing with the SYRIZA officials responsible for finance, economy and labour, Tsipras underlined that he does is not tabling this plan to mount an opposition to the government but “because we believe the government should implement these measures”.
He noted that, during an emergency such as the present, those who failed to subordinate their party’s interests to those of the country and the people, will pay for this doubly or triply, while noting that the main issue was “that the country does not pay” for this.
Tsipras stressed that the battle can be won if there are no delays and inadequacy, and by “making use of all the weapons in our arsenal.” “We must take action now to avoid going from a pandemic to economic collapse,” he said.
Referring to the ‘cash buffer’ of 37 billion euros, as he called it, Tsipras said his government had created it for emergencies like this one, and he criticized the government for postponing using it, in a decision he called ‘unacceptable, cynical and catastrophic for the vast majority of society.’
These ‘upfront interventions’ must be implemented urgently, the main pposition leader said, and outlined them as follows:
– Funding of the National Health System (ESY) with an additional 1 billion euros, hiring 4,000 medical and nursing staff on a permanent basis, and controlling the laboratory tests centrally, among others.
– Extending the protection of main homes from loan defaults beyond April 2020 and banning foreclosure auctions to the end of the year.
– Adding 300 million euros to immediate measures for social care and solidarity, increasing disability checks and the social solidarity bonus by 50 percent.
– Introducing a special social solidarity bonus as a dividend to be paid out in two instalments, an expenditure of 1.5 billion euros, to help freelancers (blokakia and such) and unemployed whose benefits have run out (people qualifying total nearly 1.7 million).
– Ensuring full payment of wages, insurance contributions and Easter bonus for all employees in the private sector, and subsidizing freelancers and contract workers with an amount totalling one-twelfth of their 2019 revenues, for every month through May 2020. The total of this cost is 8.5 billion euros, he said.
– Suspending all tax obligations for six months.
– Suspending outstanding debt payments and other obligations to banks for as long as the coronavirus crisis lasts.
– Subsidizing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not qualify for bank loans because of their revenues and employee numbers, with a non-returnable funding of 3 billion euros altogether.
– Accelerating the disbursement of public investments program payments.
– Introducing a program similar to ‘Hercules’, for defaulted bank loans, but adapted to SMEs. This would be guaranteed by the state, total 12 billion euros, and help them with their liquidity during this crisis.
Tsipras also stressed that the Greek state must be prepared to do whatever it can to protect large businesses of strategic importance to Greece, going even as far as nationalizing them. “At any rate, the terms must be specific,” he said, noting that “the state should acquire a share in those companies equal to its intervention.”
Greece is at an advantage, the party leader noted, “because it has the ability to move ahead to expenditures without raising its domestic borrowing. The reason is it has a cash buffer of nearly 10 pct of GDP which it can draw on for its needs (…) without leading the country into trouble.”
Tsipras said the proposed program was for six months. If the crisis goes beyond this, “then we will be speaking of the grinding to a halt of the global and European economy.”