PM defends deal to wary MPs

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the initial deal his government struck on Tuesday with international lenders before skeptical ruling SYRIZA party lawmakers on Friday, urging them to get behind it when it goes to a parliamentary vote as, he insisted, it will put the country on a path of recovery after three bailouts and much suffering.

He also gave a detailed account of the agreed countermeasures – mainly tax cuts and increases to social spending – in the government’s bid to soften the blow for MPs who will have to approve the deal’s highly unpopular measures in Parliament.

Hoping to sweeten the pill of further austerity, he said that any savings this year will be distributed to the Greek people, as was the case in 2016.

Even though he acknowledged that the government was forced to make some difficult concessions, such as pension cuts, Tsipras insisted that he got the best possible deal, claiming it will give much-need “breathers to millions of citizens” as, he said, it is “balanced” with “zero fiscal impact.”

He also said the deal will pave the way for the key Greek demand of debt relief and called, once again, on international creditors to “meet their promises” to adopt measures for alleviating the country’s mountainous debt.

Rather than blaming the international Monetary Fund and Berlin – as the government has done repeatedly in recent months – he said that the delay in concluding the second review of the country’s third bailout was due to his administration’s efforts to make sure the agreement leaves the “the least possible wounds.”

He also added that the deal has opened up a two-year period for the government to focus on reviewing the Constitution and improving the daily lives of the country’s austerity-battered people, through initiatives in the sectors of health, education and local government.

He attacked main opposition New Democracy for failing to be productive in the protracted period leading up to the deal, and defended his government’s negotiation strategy, which entailed politicizing the talks by moving them away from the Hilton Hotel in Athens to international summits and European Parliament.

He also slammed the proposal made on Wednesday by ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis that the government should return 0.5 percent of GDP from the excess primary surplus in 2016 to taxpayers straight away.

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