Greek pensioners receive one-off bonus amid future cuts

Senior citizens left fuming as €617 million payment fails to match ongoing cuts to benefits

Greek pensioners receive one-off bonus amid future cuts

World Bulletin / News Desk

Coats buttoned all the way up, woolen gloves and hats to protect them from the drizzle, Greek pensioners formed long queues in front of ATMs earlier this week, patiently waiting to withdraw a bonus payment provided by the government.

A few weeks ago, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced he would give €617 million ($644 million) to more than a 1.5 million low-income pensioners -- defined as those receiving less than €850 per month -- as a one-off bonus.

However, senior citizens are furious after it emerged that -- despite receiving the bonus -- ongoing cuts to their payments elsewhere meant their pensions had effectively fallen.

The Pensioners’ Social Solidarity Benefit they had been receiving has been cut in half, and according to the budget for 2017, it will be even lower next year.

Now the government is facing a backlash, with many pensioners angrily recalling earlier promises made by Tsipras.

Elsewhere, European creditors are not amused to find the Greek government spending money supposed intended for debt repayments.

“It has been the government’s pledge to redistribute every euro of surplus from available sources to our weaker citizens,” Tsipras had said in a live televised announcement.

“Today, staying true to this pledge, we decided on the immediate redistribution of the outperformance of 2016 revenues to low-income pensioners,” the Greek premier added.

Dimitris Rapidis, a political analyst and consultant to Tsipras’s ruling left-wing SYRIZA party, explained that “this was a promise made more than a year ago -- that when the government has some money, they would give back to those who need it the most”.

Last week, the bill containing the one-off bonuses plus VAT deductions for some northern Aegean islands heavily affected by the refugee crisis, was passed by parliament.

“There are no secondary thoughts, it is not part of a pre-election giving, it is part of a commitment made by the government a while ago,” Rapidis told Anadolu Agency, brushing aside rumors of a snap election in the first months of 2017.

Greeks have experienced a lot of cuts in their pensions in recent years as part of austerity policies and reforms which followed the economic crisis.

According to a law voted passed in May, which will be fully implemented in 2017, those who will retire next year will receive reduced pensions -- sometimes getting 10 to 30 percent less than the amount they would have got had they retired in 2016.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2016, 16:29