Tsipras insists he can lead Greece out of crisis by 2019
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s left-wing prime minister easily won a confidence vote early Thursday, and pledged to usher the bailout-reliant country out of its financial crisis by 2019, mitigating creditor-mandated austerity with support for the poor.
Alexis Tsipras’ governing coalition received the backing of all 155 of its lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, with all opposition members voting against.
Earlier, Tsipras told lawmakers that his newly-elected government expects to be able to tap bond markets in early 2017 — a key condition for Greece to make ends meet without further rescue loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.
Tsipras’ speech concluded a three-day debate on his policy platform.
Tsipras was elected on a four-year mandate Sept. 20, despite ditching the anti-austerity rhetoric that first got him elected in January. He has now pledged to implement all tax hikes, income cuts and economic reforms he agreed to in July to secure a third bailout for Greece worth 86 billion euros.
“We want this four-year period to go down in history as the time when the crisis ended,” Tsipras said. “Our main concern will be to support the weakest.”
The country soon faces an inspection of its reform progress by its creditors, and Tsipras said he hopes to have the process completed next month. Once the review is out of the way, the government can open crucial talks on reducing Greece’s crippling debt load — through easier repayment terms — and oversee capital injections of up to 25 billion euros to its battered banks.
Tsipras said success in these ventures will help revive the recession-hammered economy, which he expects to start growing again by July 2016.
“This will allow us to gradually restore the long-term stability of the Greek economy ... (regain) investor confidence and, at the beginning of 2017, regain access to international markets,” he said.
With a brief exception last year, Greece has been unable to borrow from markets since it lost investor confidence in 2010 after under-reporting its budget deficit. To avoid bankruptcy and a disastrous exit from the eurozone, it has been kept alive for the past five years on bailouts, delivered on condition of tough spending cuts, income reductions and tax hikes.
These deepened a recession that wiped out a quarter of the Greek economy and has left 25 percent of the workforce jobless. Tsipras was initially elected in January on pledges to drastically curb the resented austerity, but was forced to accept the new bailout — on condition of further belt-tightening — to keep the country in the eurozone.