ECONOMY

A conflict of interests

The likelihood of finding a single, overarching solution to the social insurance problem affecting all banks – the huge deficits caused by their pension funds – are almost zero due to bankers’ unwillingness to work on the basis of a single formula. In many cases, the interests of banks are conflicting; the government, too, appears to be against a single solution, preferring each bank to undertake its share of the burden. It is bank employees who are pushing for an overall solution through their union (OTOE), together with a few banks and the Bank of Greece, although the latter has not tabled any specific proposals. The government’s move to call a meeting tomorrow on a solution to Emporiki’s problem, with the participation of the management, the employees’ union and the ministers for economy and finance, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, and employment, Panos Panayiotopoulos, has been interpreted as a clear message to all sides that each bank must move independently to deal with the social insurance problem in view of the application of International Financial Reporting Standards as of January 1. Sources say the government is studying ways to find a solution for the auxiliary fund of the National Bank of Greece, too, probably along the lines of an already agreed-on financial boost to Agricultural Bank. An independent solution to the problem is on the cards in the Bank of Attica as well, where the state controls 18.76 percent of shares through the Deposits and Loans Fund and the state Postal Savings Bank, another 17.56 percent. Resolving the social insurance problem of banks is an essential condition for the realization of the government’s partial and full privatization plans, while it also maintains a positive climate in the capital market. The government is thus working to solve the problem in the banks it controls, both in order to safeguard its possessions (not resolving Emporiki’s problem would jeopardize its survival) and to implement its economic policy. The attempt to tackle the Emporiki problem and the failure to reach a single solution (never actually discussed by banks) have worried OTOE, which on Tuesday decided to call a 24-hour strike on Monday 31 this month, asking for a single formula based on its own proposal for the setting up of a single auxiliary fund. The unwillingness to find a common solution is also forcing Alpha Bank to find a solution of its own. For the time being, though, the bank’s management is keeping silent about it and its officials consider it premature to air the plans.