ATHENS – Reneging on a promise not to impose more austerity, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government is going ahead with more cuts to already-devastated pensions and will slash auxiliary and main benefits to satisfy international lenders.
For months, Samaras has said he would not go after workers, the elderly and the poor to save Greece money, but under a so-called “zero deficit clause” agreed between the government and the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) there will be another round of pension reductions.
The application of the clause is designed to save the funds some 464 million euros, plus another 115.5 million from cuts in subsidies by the end of the Medium-Term Program of Fiscal Strategy for 2014-2018.
Most of the 580 million euros to be saved will come by cutting benefits to pensioners, some of whom are already trying to survive on monthly allocations as low as 300 euros, before taxes.
The first cuts will be imposed on the beneficiaries of the Single Auxiliary Social Security Fund (ETEA), which covers some 4 million people, beginning on July 1.
Changes are also due to main pensions with cuts designed to offset the loss of revenues of some 974 million euros by 2018 because of a reduction in social security contributions as of July 1.
The recently revised bailout agreement calls for the drafting of a plan for the merging of funds by the end of June. Pensioners have protesting for nearly four years over cuts in their benefits of up to 30 percent, including lump sums they earned over decades of work, although the country’s highest court said that was unconstitutional.
While pensioners have lost hundreds of millions of euros through reductions, Samaras is set to return a one-time payment of 500 euros to some of them in a pre-election so-called “social dividend,” most of which will go members of the armed forces, police and emergency personnel, a key constituency of his New Democracy Conservative party.