ECONOMY

One in five Greeks ‘poor’

BRUSSELS – More than in one in five Greeks live below the poverty line, the second highest rate in the European Union after Britain, and the funds spent on combating the problem are also among the lowest. According to the Union’s first report on fighting poverty and social exclusion, which is to be officially unveiled tomorrow, 22 percent of the Greek population are categorized as poor, surviving on less than 60 percent of the national median income, which is used as the measure in each member state. In eight of the 15 EU members, poverty affects 15 percent or less of the population, and their median income is considerably higher than Greece’s. The problems in labor markets and a series of social changes make the problem of poverty and social exclusion particularly acute in Greece, notes the report, showing that the resources devoted to combating the problem, either in the form of direct economic benefits or more general supports are in almost inverse proportion to the degree of its seriousness. Greece and Portugal are shown with the lowest social spending per head and ranked among the last in terms of GDP percentage devoted to social policy (excluding pensions). The report, which EU Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou will submit for approval to the plenum of the Commission, warns that the important social changes taking place in Europe in the last two years, even though positive for the majority of the population, hold dangers for particularly vulnerable groups and must be confronted through the use of appropriate policy tools. The authors record policies which each member state applies on the basis of commonly agreed aims for dealing with the problem, but have not evaluated the efficiency of these policies, apparently anxious to avoid friction with national governments. Greece’s measures are grouped in the National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion. The report finds that there is room for improvement regarding the planning, implementation and provision of social protection measures, as the Plan needs clearer and more specific strategic goals. It points out that even though it contains certain innovations, the diffusion of measures in various policy sectors makes imperative the development of special mechanisms to improve coordination. For Greece, the great challenge will be to thrash out and implement specific policies for improving the efficiency of social measures for citizens affected by poverty and social exclusion. The Post Office Savings Bank is currently in talks with the Post Office over possible cooperation in the sale and distribution of financial products.