World Press View: Greek Pension Protests Turn Ugly

Protesters push the shields of riot policemen as they break the police cordon during a demonstration protesting against new social security reforms in Athens, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. The changes are part of Greece's new bailout program and would significantly increase contributions workers have to pay into the funds. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Taking several years of brutal cuts, Greek pensioners have had all they can stand and they can’t stands no more from the government, world press reports say.

Some excerpts:

Scuffles at Pension Reforms Protest

BBC 

Scuffles broke out in central Athens during a protest against the Greek government’s proposed pension reforms.
Tensions reportedly flared when demonstrators from the Communist-affiliated PAME union broke past a line of riot police near the prime minister’s office.

The next stage of Greece’s bailout from the EU and the IMF is dependent on huge savings from the pension system.
Representatives of the creditors are due to begin a review later this month.

Pensions have been one of the main obstacles in the Greek debt crisis negotiations.

About 100 protesters supporting the PAME workers’ union displayed a huge banner outside the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday demanding the proposals be scrapped.

Riot officers fired tear gas after demonstrators broke a police line. Earlier, hundreds more public sector workers and pensioners marched in the city centre, Reuters reports.

In order to find savings worth €1.8bn or 1% of GDP in 2016, the Greek government is proposing increasing employer contributions and merging pension funds among other measures.

Although the plans do not involve any immediate cuts to pensions, they have angered trade unions and failed to draw support from opposition parties.

“The government tricked the workers and the farmers into thinking that it will create a better society with more justice and less unemployment,” Reuters quotes 74-year-old protester Babis Kattis as saying.

“Pensioners are about to become beggars.”

Alongside shrinking pensions, the elderly have already been hard hit by high unemployment, increases in VAT and rising taxes.

Before winning last January’s election, Alexis Tsipras campaigned with a promise not to cut pensions again.

He said on Sunday that his government would not give in to “unreasonable” demands from creditors, but admitted the pension system was “on the brink of collapse” and needed to be overhauled.

Greeks Protest Against Pension Reform

Channel News Asia

Hundreds of Greek pensioners and workers marched in central Athens on Friday, protesting against plans to overhaul an ailing pension system as the government sought backing for its proposals at home and in European capitals.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said the pension system is on the verge of collapse; but reforming it will challenge his resolve to implement measures demanded by Greece’s international creditors, who must sign off on the plan.

About 100 protesters supporting the Communist-affiliated union PAME unfurled a huge banner outside the prime minister’s office, slamming the plan as “a guillotine for the pension system”.

Hundreds more public sector workers and pensioners, worn down by several rounds of wage and pension cuts Greece has imposed over the years in return for rescue funds marched in the city centre.

Tensions flared briefly when the crowd broke past a line of police in riot gear and headed towards Tsipras’s office. Police responded with tear gas.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos began a tour of European capitals to discuss debt and pension problems with counterparts in Rome, Lisbon, Paris, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berlin.

According to the proposals Greece sent its lenders on Monday, all six main pension funds will be merged into one and future main pensions could be cut by up to 30 percent.

It sets a lower limit at 384 euros per month and sets a ceiling of 2,300 euros on the maximum monthly pension outlay. The average monthly pension currently stands at about 850 euros.

An EU source said Greece had sent the draft pension reform bill to the lenders and Eurogroup secretariat in Greek only, and as of Friday morning they were still waiting for the translation.

“The crisis has blown up the foundations of the social security system,” Katrougalos said. “We want to give the social security system hope, so that the average pensioner does not lose hope that they will continue receiving a pension.”

How Much Longer Will Crises Continue?

Business Finance News/Mohammed Shehmir

Right now, it’s reasonable to be pessimistic if you are an investor of any Greek security. The economic crisis aside, we think there is one thing that can prove to be worse than the current situation: social unrest.

Last year, Greece witnessed two elections, a referendum, strict capital control measures, embarrassment over bailout negotiations, and finally, the third bailout in June. The country was on the verge of being kicked out of the Eurozone due to the risk of bankruptcy.

As of now, Greek lenders are demanding reforms in exchange for assistance. The government should now pay special attention to the country’s pension system. They should increase the tax on farmers, and look towards major privatizations.

Capital control measures were implemented in July to prevent the financial collapse. Still, bank withdrawals are limited to €60 a day, and this limit is not expected to be lifted by spring. The economy last showed signs of recovery in late FY14, but it is expected to shrink again in FY16. T

The country has missed its tax collection targets, and deposits are still flowing out of banks at a fast pace. 50% of all deposits have been withdrawn from Greek banks since FY10 started. Currently, the amount of deposits in Greek banks stand at €121 billion