Social Dividends Being Sent Out

ATHENS – Some 265,000 Greek citizens – one-third of them from the military, police and emergency personnel – this week will get a one-time pre-election 500-euro ($696) so-called social dividend to partially offset devastating austerity measures.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government is disbursing the money from a 1.5 billion euro primary surplus to only some of the people affected by big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings imposed on the orders of international lenders.

Samaras said he was going to return 70 percent of it, or about 1.19 billion euros ($1.65 billion) but the total amount will now be only 450 million euros.

Of that, about 37.5 million euros will go to 75,000 members of the military, police and emergency services who are a core constituency of his New Democracy Conservatives ahead of this month’s critical elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.

With his party locked in a tight fight with the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Samaras was keen to get the money sent out as fast as possible to counter huge pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings he imposed on orders of international lenders.

The Finance Ministry indicated that those who applied for the handouts by April 30 would be in the first wave of recipients, as well. The deadline for all applications is June 30. Samaras had said that one million people would be getting the dividend, mostly low-income families and pensioners.

The criteria for who will get the money hasn’t been explained and pensioners whose already-reduced benefits have left them with as little as 430 euros ($598) a month before taxes have been rejected, while those in the military, police and emergency services whose salaries are far higher will get the money.