Pension critics blasted

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis added his weight yesterday to the government’s efforts to convince voters of the need for pension reforms as he told unions and opposition parties to stop being «irresponsible» and demanded unity from his MPs. Addressing the New Democracy deputies in Parliament, Karamanlis spoke out publicly for the first time on the pension issue since Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas began outlining the conservatives’ plans earlier this month. «The reform of the pension system is necessary and imperative,» Karamanlis told the deputies. «It is irresponsible to postpone our problems until the future just to satisfy petty party goals.» The government’s plans for unifying the vast majority of Greece’s 155 pension funds have so far met with disdain from worker groups and opposition parties. «Apathy is the act of an enemy. Our responsibility is to deliver a system that is free of its chronic problems.» Greece’s two largest unions, GSEE for the private sector and the public sector’s ADEDY, have refused to take part in any direct dialogue with the government as they believe that New Democracy has not made any concrete proposals. Karamanlis accused detractors of finding excuses for not helping to find a solution to the problem. «Stipulations and absolute positions betray a desire not to take part in dialogue,» he argued. «The refusal to confront problems is an anti-social act that is against the interests of the people.» Having delivered his outspoken attack, the prime minister turned his attention to his own MPs. There have been some dissenters within the conservative ranks over the past few weeks but with a majority of just two seats in Parliament, Karamanlis cannot afford to have any of his MPs wavering. He urged them to be united to form a «big fist» that would battle against the country’s problems. Karamanlis also applauded Magginas when the employment minister told MPs that the proposed reforms would not affect the level of people’s pensions or their contributions. He also repeated that the «general» retirement ages would not be affected either.