Antonis Samaras, head of Greece's right-wing New Democracy party that is tipped to win May 6 elections, promised Sunday to revive the economy by lowering taxes and curbing waste.
"The middle class, the hardest hit by taxes, needs to breathe," Samaras said as he unveiled his economic programme.
"People don't have money to pay new taxes. ... The only thing to do is to reduce wasteful public spending, which is huge."
Samaras also vowed to reduce public deficits, privatise the railroads and other mass transport, reform the civil service and fight red tape while encouraging business development.
"The turnaround must begin. Out of a million businesses in Greece in 2009, 250,000 have shut down and 300,000 can no longer pay (taxes) and also face closure, which will make unemployment skyrocket ... especially among youths for whom the (jobless) rate is more than 50 percent," he said.
The right was fiercely opposed to an initial EU-IMF bailout in 2010, raised when Athens could no longer raise funding on the financial markets because investors feared they would not be repaid given the country's massive 350 billion euros debt mountain.
In return, Greece agreed to implement Draconian austerity measures including slashing pensions and salaries and raising taxes.
But Samaras's party, as part of a coalition government with the PASOK socialists formed after the November resignation of socialist prime minister Georges Papandreou, voted in favour of a second bailout that also called for a restructuring of Greece's debt.
"I argued with our European partners (at the start of the crisis) but then we were obliged to sign the second aid package ... in order to be able to restructure the debt. Still, we also insisted that the European recipe was wrong," Samaras said.
The conservative leader nevertheless said he would respect the prescribed programme for reducing the deficit and the public debt -- while giving priority to reviving the economy.
With polls showing that no party will win an outright majority in the May polls, Samaras said a vote for his New Democracy party would favour stability, adding that a coalition with the socialists -- which appears likely -- would slow his programme.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a technocrat appointed last year to lead the coalition government tasked only with implementing the terms of the second rescue package, will stand aside after the election.
Source: AFP Global Edition