It was little surprise that Greece’s late response to the demand for details of how they will run their budget was accepted yesterday by the Euro group.
The Greek state government committed itself to change tax codes to raise more money from the better off, and to find ways to improve tax collection and enforcement. They have offered to make many changes to different parts of revenue collection, with more inspections, more audits and more and better staff to do the collecting.
They have also pledged to improve their controls over public spending, concentrating on non wage expenditure which accounts for 56% of the total. They also wish to improve the provision and quality of medical services, with universal access. They are going to consolidate pension funds and seek to reduce early retirements to cut pension spending.
It will cut the number of government Ministries from 16 to 10, cut fringe benefits to MPs, Ministers and top officials, improve public sector tenders and keep wage costs down.
The government has had to accept much of the privatisation programme it inherited and disliked. It now says it will not roll back privatisations already committed. It will rejig future ones with “the emphasis on long leases,joint ventures…and contracts that maximise not only government revenues but also prospective levels of private investment”
The pledge to pay a higher Minimum wage has become “the ambition to streamline and over time raise minimum wages in a manner which safeguards competitiveness and employment prospects. The scope and timing of changes to the minimum wage will be made in consultation with social partners and the European and international institutions…..” taking into account whether changes are in line with productivity developments and competitiveness.
As expected, both sides have had to sacrifice a lot. The Euro area has agreed to lending Greece more money, and to giving more time to trying to negotiate a longer term solution later this year. In the meantime the ECB has now lent more money to Greece. The rest of the zone has to accept promises, which rely heavily on the ability of the new government to raise much more in taxation than previous governments have managed. For its part, Syriza has to accept privatisation of state assets, accept a delay in raising the Minimum Wage, accept Eurozone surveillance of its budget and loan programme, and recognise there is not going to be a large planned fiscal stimulus for the economy.
In summary, the Greeks have not slain the dragon of austerity as they see it, and the Eurozone has not weaned Greece off more loans and assistance. If revenue does not respond quickly to new treatment, the issue of how to pay for the Greek budget will intensify.