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Society

Greek Pensioners Protest Again, Say Governments Took All

November 24, 2017

ATHENS – Several hundred Greek pensioners marched again through the capital, as they have in futility numerous times, protesting benefit cuts and complaining successive governments “took everything” they have.

They face more reductions from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who vowed to protect them but abandoned them in surrendering to international creditors.
To get a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($386.4 billion) he said he would never accept nor seek but did in reneging on anti-austerity promises, Tsipras broke his promise of “not another euro” in cuts in agreeing to further pension benefit reductions.

That was in addition to more new taxes on the lower-and-middle-income his government admitted had been targeted as it let politicians, the rich and tax cheats largely escape a now more than 7 ½-year-long economic crisis.

Greece’s three bailouts since 2010 have repeatedly taken aim at the pension system. Cuts have pushed nearly half its elderly below the poverty line with incomes of less 600 euros ($710.70) a month, the news agency Reuters said in a report on the march that, like all others, was ignored by the government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who have dropped off the political radar screen in surveys showing they won’t get back into Parliament in the next elections.

With unemployment the highest in the European Union, a quarter of children living in poverty and benefits slashed, parents have grown dependent on grandparents for handouts as pensioners have taken repeated cuts driving their stipends down 40-50 percent and with taxes and utility bills soaring at the same time.

“I have never seen the country in this state, not even during war,” 80-year-old Nikos Georgiadis, a former hotel employee whose pension has been reduced by 40 percent told the news agency.
“Pensioners are impoverished, and not only can they not afford to buy medicines, some are looking for food in the trash,” he said.

New changes to pension regulations mean more cuts are expected in 2019. Pensioners also have to pay more out of pocket for health care.

Hoping to reverse his slide in polls showing he now has less than 10 percent support, Tsipras for a second year is giving holiday handouts, much of them to pensioners whose benefits he has cut far more than the dividend and who will see more slashes in 2018.

“Unfortunately, I voted for them, and they turned out to be the biggest liars of all,” Georgiadis said. “It (the government) promised us everything, and it took everything.”

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