Benefits Being Cut 70%, Greek Pensioners Can’t Make Ends Meet

FILE - Greek pensioners are seen on a mirror as they are taking part in an anti-austerity rally, in Athens, Thursday, May 18, 2017. New belt-tightening measures will be imposed beyond the end of Greece's third bailout next year, including pension cuts and tax hikes and the left-led coalition government agreed to the cuts as part of a deal with the country's international creditors to release funds from its bailout. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Abandoned by successive governments who vowed to protect them from more pension cuts demanded by international lenders, 75 percent of Greek pensioners can’t make basic payments or cover the costs of medicines and food.

That was the finding of a survey conducted by the United Pensioners network which said once the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition finishes further slashes to benefits it vowed to reject that some will have been cut as much as 70 percent, without helping the social security system.

Despite that, the government is going ahead with foreclosures of homes and banks buried by bad loans because people can’t afford to pay after big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and job lesses are hounding them to pay anyway, while forgiving business loans.

The head of the network, Nikos Hatzopoulos, told Kathimerini that, “The reductions that pensioners’ incomes have suffered are huge. It’s not just the cuts, it’s also the (social security) contribution hikes, tax hikes and all the levies that have impoverished the veterans of the work force. Pensions corresponding to revenues withheld from a lifetime’s work have been turned into a mere gratuity through the bailout agreement regulations.”

The results showed that some 1.5 million pensioners with annual incomes up to 4,500 euros ($5038) have sunk into poverty while new cuts to current pension will in 2019 have led to a total loss of income of 70 percent since Greece entered the bailout mechanism in 2010.

New main pensions will not exceed 655 euros ($733) per month for average-paid workers and seven cuts to supplementary pensions have cut benefits up to 78 percent.

Of the total figure of 2.89 million pensioners, 2.15 million (or 74 percent) have to make ends meet on monthly pensions that do not exceed 1,000 euros ($1120) in a system the country’s creditors said is still too generous.

The government has agreed to freeze pensions through 2022 and go ahead with more cuts even though figures from the Labor Ministry showed the brutal slashes have done almost nothing to improve the financial standing of Social Security as austerity has led to fewer businesses paying even less into the system for old-age support.

In absolute figures pension expenditure will hardly change, from 30.2 billion euros ($33.81 billion) this year to 30.13 billion ($33.73 billion) in 2021. Its ratio to GDP will go down only thanks to the projected economic growth.