The government pledged yesterday to radically accelerate the process whereby the country’s largest pension and healthcare fund processes pension applications. Employment and Social Security Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos told a press conference that under the current state of affairs, contributors to the state Social Security Foundation (IKA) have to wait up to 15 months after their retirement in order to begin receiving their pension. About 110,000 pension applications are currently outstanding, according to IKA’s director Ioannis Vartholomaios, who said the fund can process 8,000 applications a month at the present stage. By slashing the red tape involved, IKA hopes to speed up the process next month, with a final aim of reducing the wait for a pension to no more than a week within 2005, Panayiotopoulos said. Vartholomaios also told the press conference that private sector companies owe IKA a total of 1.6 billion euros in unpaid contributions, while media firms alone owe an estimated 12.2 million.