Daily Management Review

Greek retirees: The government took away everything from us


Several hundred pensioners took to the streets in Athens on Thursday, protesting against the government. They were claiming that the authorities took away everything from them in a new round of reducing pensions and social guarantees, Reuters reports.

Since 2010, three tranches of financial assistance in the framework of the Greek rescue program among other things implied cutting on pension payments. Because of this, the welfare of almost half of the elderly in the country fell below the poverty line, and their incomes amounted to less than 600 euros ($ 710) per month.

At the same time, the country has a rather high unemployment rate of about 25%, while a quarter of children live in poverty, and their parents grew up depending on the income of the older generation.

However, after the reduction of pension payments, some Greeks noticed that their monthly earnings fell by 40-50% over the past seven years. After payment of rent of habitation, municipal and medical services, many hardly make both ends meet.

"I never saw the country in such a condition, even during the war," said 80-year-old Nikos Georgiadis, a former employee of a hotel, whose pension was reduced by 40%.

"Pensioners are poor, and not only can they not afford to buy medicine, some have to look for food in garbage cans," he said.

New changes in pension regulations mean that additional reductions are expected in 2019. Pensioners also have to pay more for the health care system.

Fotini Karavid, a 75-year-old pensioner who joined the march in a wheelchair, said he needed to save on everything to afford to pay for medical services.

"It's simple - many pensioners cannot afford to eat and buy medicines," said 67-year-old Yannis Karadimas, who heads the local association of pensioners.

Karadimas said it was a "joke" that the government legitimized marijuana for medical purposes, reducing health care costs. "They kill us while mocking us," he said.

The popularity of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has weakened since he first won the election in 2015. In an attempt to restore public support, the government provided a 1.3 million retiree in Greece with a one-time Christmas bonus last year that ranged from 300 to 500 euros.

"Unfortunately, I voted for them, and they turned out to be the biggest liars," said Georgiadis, a pensioner. "They (the government) promised everything to us and took everything."

Recall, Greece will allocate 1.4 billion euros ($ 1.63 billion) as a social benefit for pensioners and other seriously affected by the austerity program, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

This money became available, as the country achieved the goal of a primary budget surplus excluding debt servicing expenses in 1.75% of GDP, Tsipras said.

Tsipras came to power in 2015, promising to end the times of tight financial restraint, but later had to turn again to the EU for help in exchange for an even more serious saving program to keep the country within the Eurozone. Subsequently, Tsipras was re-elected, now his term ends in late 2019.

His government, led by the leftists, hopes that, after seven years of crisis, Greece's financial results will help the country withdraw from the EU's rescue program in August 2018, when the current round of the program is over.

source: reuters.com