Greek gov’t aims to get around looming pension cuts

Greek gov’t aims to get around looming pension cuts

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras aims to avert or at least partially curb further planned reductions to pensions, due to come into effect on January 2019 in line with Greece’s bailout commitments, amid fears that the new austerity will deal a heavy blow to his government in the countdown to elections, Kathimerini understands.

Tsipras is intent on softening the blow for hundreds of thousands of families that are to be affected by the planned changes – estimates range from 300,000 and 700,000 – as, sources say, the enforcement of the pension cuts is to come just months before scheduled general elections.

The reported change in strategy comes as Tsipras and his advisors are increasingly focusing on the possibility of early elections. Although leftist SYRIZA is trailing conservative New Democracy by about 10 percentage points in opinion polls, there is a chance that Tsipras will call snap poll when Greece emerges from its third international bailout in August, using the narrative that his government extricated the country from years of painful “memorandums” and austerity, and brought it firmly into a new era of recovery and growth.

The reality, however, is that measures agreed during the last bailout will remain pending after Greece’s scheduled exit in August. It is those measures – chiefly pension cuts – that Tsipras is said to want to avert or at least soften.

The reports come just a few days after top cabinet officials declared publicly – both within Greece and to the country’s creditors – that pending measures, including pension cuts, will be enforced. The government is expected to broach the planned turnaround immediately after the scheduled exit in August.

One possible proposal Athens might make to creditors, Kathimerini understands, is to allow the new pension cuts to apply to those already drawing their pensions but not to new retirees. A possible compromise, sources say, is using part of a budget surplus to cover the difference.

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