— EURACTIV (@EURACTIV) 15 mei 2017
Last Sunday, the Greek government presented the new budget proposal for 2017-2021. In it, they lowered the GDP growth target for the year to 1.8% from a previous estimate of 2.7%. The Greeks moved towards submitting new austerity measures, including a wider tax net. The move is tricky; Prime Minister Tsipras had pledged his government would not implement new austerity measures without debt reduction in exchange.
In February, the European Commission’s projection was set at 2.1%, and the new target of 1.8% is significantly lower. According to ANA news agency, Greece is seeking to meet the demands of creditors in an arduous bailout process, with a proposed new law projecting tax increases for 2019 and 2020, even for income just above the poverty level. That, along with (again) pension cuts, is projected to save €4.5 billion, according to ANA.
Greece’s debt stands at 179 percent of its GDP, or about 315 billion euros. Currently, the country owes about 216 billion euros to the European Stability Mechanism, the euro-area bailout fund (and its predecessor), as well as to other euro-area countries. The negotiations have been on macro-level, but also at micro-level: During negotiations with creditors, Tsipras managed to secure some measures against poverty, such as cafeterias to serve free meals, day care and rent subsidies.
Whether the proposals make it through parliament has to be seen; the right-wing opposition has said it will vote against the programme, and to make things worse; the country’s main unions called for a national general strike on Wednesday.
In his calls for substantial debt relief, Tsipras faces resistance from Germany, where additional concessions are unpopular with an electorate called to a general election in September. But on the bright side; the latest election results in Germany have shown that a leader can make hugely unpopular decisions, and still win an election. Maybe this win will trigger Merkel into debt relief for Greece.