IKA finances looking better

The financial health of Greece’s largest pension fund, IKA, is improving and pension age limits will not need to be increased by 2012, Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said yesterday. Presenting the 2007 IKA budget, Tsitouridis pointed out that it is the first time in many years that the pension fund is not forecast to end with a deficit. In 2006, IKA ended in the red by 208 million euros. The surplus next year is expected to be 40 million euros or could even come in higher, Tsitouridis said. The minister said that 320 million euros of debts being paid off and better cost management have led to an improvement in IKA finances. Revenues are expected to rise by 6.7 percent as audits become more effective. In a bid to stop employees tipping off businesses of an upcoming audit, IKA management informs inspections teams about who will come under the microscope only a few hours before it is set to happen. Fines of more than 16 million euros have been imposed on businesses in eastern Attica for 1,526 infringements detected, according to IKA. The time period over which the fines were imposed was not clear. Data also showed yesterday that migrant workers are helping to keep the pension fund afloat with their contributions and that until 2020 its viability is in no way threatened. The positive news on IKA comes in contrast to economists calling for action from the government to help avoid a likely collapse of the pension system. In Athens last week, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Greece mission, Robert Ford, highlighted a looming crisis in the national pension system. According to Ford, the pensions deficits will start to weigh on public finances by 2012 or 2013. Meanwhile yesterday, in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens, police arrested a 43-year-old IKA employee who allegedly tried to blackmail a businessman. The employee allegedly asked for a 2,000-euro bribe in order to write off a 15,000-euro IKA fine in relation to violations committed.