Pension stance to soften

Recently appointed Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia is likely to water down controversial pension reform proposals after a recent round of strike action forced the government to rethink its stance on the changes. Less than 10 days after taking over the ministry from her predecessor, Vassilis Magginas, Petralia is focusing on merging some funds of state companies, such as OTE telecom, with Greece’s largest fund IKA, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. Other proposals she will insist on include merging all secondary funds and changing the pension rights offered to mothers. The new plan also envisages an increase in the minimum retirement age from 58 to 60 for men who have worked for 35 years, a source said. Senior government officials are believed to be rethinking their stance on the pension overhaul after a general strike earlier this month brought the country to a standstill and up to 100,000 people marched through Athens in protest. Among the reforms that may be dropped is the merging of the journalists’ fund with those of other professions and a plan to siphon 10 percent of funds from financially stronger funds to support weaker pension funds. The new proposals are likely to be tabled in Parliament in March as the government hopes to implement the changes in the first half of the year. When Magginas was minister, the government had proposed reducing the number of the country’s pension funds from 155 to just five. Magginas stepped down after it was learned he had built a holiday home in a forest area. The government says that it currently pays around 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to support pensions and fears the amount could reach as high as 25 percent by 2050 unless swift action is taken.