FinMin says government eyeing return of EKAS benefit for pensioners

FinMin says government eyeing return of EKAS benefit for pensioners

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Tuesday that the government is pondering the reintroduction of a “solidarity benefit” for low-income pensioners in a “more targeted form,” along with other measures including making it harder for the state to seize the deposits of indebted businesses.

“The abolition of EKAS was admittedly one of SYRIZA's greatest defeats,” Tsakalotos said in an interview with Antenna TV on Tuesday, referring to the pensioners' social solidarity benefit by its Greek acronym.

“You win some, you lose some,” he said of the negotiation with international creditors that resulted in the scrapping of the bonus, before adding that the government is “considering bringing it back, in a different, more targeted form.”

Tsakalotos also said that a package of government handouts announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last week and which is currently under debate in Parliament, includes a reduction of value-added tax on packaged coffee sold at supermarkets and other retail outlets, though not on coffee beverages sold at cafes and other catering businesses.

Other measures he heralded in Tuesday's interview include reintroducing a small reduction for taxpayers who pay their dues in one chunk rather than in installments, as well as the raising of the amount of deposits held by businesses that are safe from confiscation for the payment of debts from the current level of 1,200 euros.

“The threshold will rise depending on how consistent debtors are with their commitments,” Tsakalotos said, referring to the scheme as a “consistency scale.”

The finance minister also dismissed criticism that the relief measures are nothing short of pre-election handouts meant to earn voters' favor, saying that the government has been planning these initiatives since last August, when Greece exited its final bailout deal.

“We know that things aren't going well, we know that people are struggling,” he said.

“We had to reach April to deliver a surplus from the fiscal space and this is why we have a more socially geared package for 2019 and a more growth-oriented one for 2020,” he added, without providing details of what the growth package would entail.

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