PM gets ready to bite pensions bullet

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is about to enter one of the most crucial weeks of his premiership as the spotlight returns to his government’s proposed pensions reforms, which he is due to unveil in Parliament on Friday. The government’s plans to unify more than 150 pension funds into just a handful met with wide opposition at the end of last year, including an 100,000-strong march in Athens. A 24-hour general strike, expected to bring much of the country to a standstill, has been organized for this Wednesday ahead of the unveiling of the draft law. Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia has been working on the bill since replacing her predecessor Vassilis Magginas, who was forced to quit office in December after it was revealed that he owned an illegally built home near Athens. Palli-Petralia does not seem to have made any drastic changes to the previous plans. However, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that Karamanlis is likely to announce that there will be changes to pension contributions, some retirement ages and the size of pension payouts for anyone retiring after 2013. The likely unpopularity of these changes has prompted Karamanlis to front the reforms as he is determined to show that his government is united.