Greece was faced with an unprecedented situation. In a period of two weeks it experienced serious wildfires followed by extended floods, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the beginning of his speech at the 87th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday.
These may cast a shadow on the present, but also lead to a radical replanning for the future, he underlined.
"For another year, Thessaloniki becomes the starting point of a new course. This year's fair is being held at a particularly difficult time for our country. I would like to focus on the huge success of the recovery of the investment grade," Mitsotakis noted.
"Reality demands that I start in a different manner," he added, noting that Greece has experienced the largest wildfires and the most serious flooding in its history.
The prime minister pledged that what the state and the citizens have lost, will be recovered without the mistakes of the past, with the help of European and national funds.
He also promised that "we will do our best so that we win the battle with the climate crisis."
Support to flood-stricken in Thessaly
"Our first priority is to help the citizens in the flooded areas, to support businesses, farmers and breeders. The first payments started yesterday," he added.
Mitsotakis said that the reconstruction of the infrastructure is urgent, while he underlined that Thessaly has been facing deficiencies in water management for decades.
"Therefore, a Water Management Organization in Thessaly is established under the ministries of Infrastructure and Environment", he announced.
Moreover, the prime minister said that the climate crisis is here and forces us to see everything differently. "Those who insure their properties will have a 10% discount in the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA). Insurance for medium and large enterprises should also be made compulsory. It is time to start a public debate on the mandatory insurance of all residences and businesses. The state will once again stand by the side of the affected. I have already created a special reserve that will reach 600 million euros. The additional 300 million euros will come from the increase in the accommodation fee, especially in the very expensive hotels," he added.
On the economic front, the prime minister stressed that he would never compromise fiscal stability.
He also recalled that the government removed the obstacles to the vote of the Greeks living abroad, increased the salaries of the public sector employees and now radical changes are expected to be implemented.
In addition, Mitsotakis noted that Greece now has the Recovery Fund and the investment grade status.
As he said, he has a mandate for major reforms, adding that 50% of the government's economic programme has already been implemented.
"The Minister of Development will announce new measures to contain prices. The 'market pass' will continue until the end of the year only in Thessaly and Evros," he underlined and emphasized that the 0.7% primary surplus target at the end of the year is non-negotiable.
He also talked about the 'Youth Pass', the minimum guaranteed income, pension increases and the new increase in the minimum wage in April.
More specifically, Mitsotakis announced the following economic measures:
- As of January 1, 2024, the "three-year period" for a payrise, suspended since 2012, is unfrozen.
- Increase in public sector employees' salaries by 10.5% as of 01/01/2024. This means that almost 660,000 employees will receive an additional salary per year.
- In 1,340,000 tax statements, the tax-free threshold increases by 1,000 euros for families with children.
- New measures aimed at maintaining stable and reduced prices in basic products.
- Continuation of the "Market Pass" until the end of the year in Thessaly and Evros.
- New increase in the minimum wage from April.
- An 8% increase in the Minimum Guaranteed Income as of December.
- Payment of an emergency economic aid to those who were affected by the "personal difference" in pensions, with an emphasis on low pensioners.
- New annual increase in pensions in January.
- Continuation of the Heating Allowance, with an emphasis on families with children.
- Supplementary provision for electricity, for the most vulnerable consumers.
- Consolidation and strengthening of the competition of credit institutions, promotion of the 5th banking pillar and granting of loans from non-banking entities.
- Reduction of the stock exchange tax.
- Promotion of the IRIS system allowing transactions of up to 500 euros per day without bank commission.
Measures to combat tax evasion
The prime minister also announced measures to combat tax evasion.
- By spring 2024, the cash registers of 450,000 businesses will be connected to POS.
- Expansion of electronic payments throughout the retail market.
- Mandatory electronic payments in the purchase and sale of real estate. The use of cash is abolished.
- Digital invoices and e-books.
- All e-commerce data should be forwarded to the Independent Public Revenues Authority (AADE).
- Allowances will be paid by credit cards.
- A fine double their amount for cash transactions over 500 euros.
Measures to ensure public safety
The prime minister also referred to measures to ensure public safety.
More specifically, he announced:
- The extension of the border fence in Evros continues and will be completed.
- Within the next month, 2,500 police officers guarding officials will return to their positions.
- Offenders of "minor" crimes that cost lives and property will be imprisoned following the first court decision.
- Strict enforcement of penalties for those sentenced to 15 years. They will no be longer released in 5 years.
- Acceleration in the delivery of Justice.
Measures to strengthen public health sector
- 800 new recruitments in the Emergency Response Ambulance Service (EKAB) and new ambulances.
- Establishment of a single coordination centre in each region of the country.
- Creation of a "Control Tower", so that the immediate response of EKAB in the cities reaches 10 minutes.
- 6 bases of medical helicopters for transports from remote places.
- Upgrade of ER in 96 hospitals and 156 health centres.
- Recruitment of 10,000 new health workers.
- Extension of free preventive examinations.
- 4 new hospitals.
Measures for natural disasters
- The Thessaly Water Management Organisation is established under the Ministries of Infrastructure and Environment, with the aim of implementing flood control projects. At the same time, recommendations will be made for permanent solutions to irrigation.
- Mandatory insurance for medium and large enterprises against natural disasters.
- A 10% discount in Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) for those who insure their properties for natural disasters.
- The Reserve for Natural Disasters is doubled from 300 to 600 million euros as of 2024. The additional amount will come from an increase in the daily accommodation tax from 1 to 6 euros, especially in luxury hotels.
- Recruitment of firefighters and foresters.
- Rapid implementation of the "Aegis" program and more systematic cooperation of Civil Protection with the Armed Forces, with specific protocols.
- Heat sensors and cameras in fire detection drones.
- In Thessaly, the first payments from the state aid began on Friday.