Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged recession-hit Greeks concrete, imminent tax relief measures after four years of harsh austerity, as the country returns to growth this year, inaugurating on Saturday the 79th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF) in the northern Greece city port.
"Greece is no longer looking back to the past which hurt us so much, but to the future, to a new Greece which is being built step by step. This year we move forward from a constant fall to a constant rise," he said in a keynote speech during the opening ceremony of the ten-day annual fair at Thessaloniki's conference center.
Reiterating confidence that the ailing economy is exiting the crisis and is expected to return to growth in the third quarter of 2014 for the first time after six years of recession, the Greek leader presented a "road map to the New Greece."
Outlining the government's economic policies in the coming months after this week's negotiations with troika lenders in Paris over the progress of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in the debt-laden country, Samaras announced a series of tax breaks to ease the burden on the shoulders of households and companies.
The Greek Premier promised a 30 percent reduction to a levy on heating oil and amendments to a new single property tax (ENFIA). Both taxes were introduced after the start of the debt crisis in a bid to raise much needed revenues.
In addition, the 2015 state budget draft will include a reduction to the solidarity tax on income which was also introduced in recent years, and a provision foreseeing the pay off of debts to the Tax Office and pension funds in more installments, he said.
Acknowledging the pain of over taxation for households and enterprises, Samaras pledged reduction of tax rates for individuals from the current 42 percent to 32 percent and the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, down from 25 percent in the future, provided that the country's primary budget surpluses are not at risk.
In regards to Greece's growth- enhancing plan in the post-memorandum era, Samaras said that over the next four months the government will announce detailed plans on taxation reform, the privatization program, structural reforms to curb bureaucracy, attract investments and create jobs.
The Greek leader also referred to the key issue of the sustainability of the Greek sovereign debt which is expected to be examined at a meeting in Washington in November.
He appeared confident that after the painful austerity and reform program implemented since 2010 in return of vital rescue loans from International Monetary Fund and European Union which bears fruits, creditors will verify that Greece's debt is sustainable.
"Although the debt remains at high levels, it has begun dropping in absolute numbers for first time and this reduction will also be seen soon as a percentage, once the GDP's rise will be clear," he noted.
Referring to main opposition Radical Left Coalition SYRIZA party's persistent call in recent months for snap general elections, Samaras warned that in such a case Greece's economic recovery will be jeopardized.
Thessaloniki's international fair hosted each September since 1926 offers an opportunity to Greek and foreign businesses to showcase their products and services, attracting approximately 300,000 visitors. About 1,000 exhibitors from 19 countries, including China, participate in the fair this year.
On political level, TIF traditionally offers Greek Premiers a chance to present key economic policies and to opposition parties and labor union to protest government policies after the summer lull.
Thousands of demonstrators are expected to march in rallies organized by the two umbrella unions of public and private sector employees, ADEDY and GSEE, along Left parties later on Saturday, as approximately 4,000 police officers have been deployed across the city to keep order.