The profile and the first general remarks made by the new political administration of the Labor Ministry reinforce the view that the government is distancing itself from its original intention to impose a radical reform of the social security system. Indications are that it will instead take a more moderate approach to the problem, meaning a short-term and patchwork solution which will, for a few years, relieve social security funds from the mounting fiscal pressure. Both Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas and deputy ministers Rovertos Spyropoulos and Lefteris Tziolas are distinguished for their political qualities rather than for their technocratic skills. In particular, Spyropoulos is coming from PASOK’s unionist faction and can better evaluate unionist sensitivities and reactions. It should be remembered that under social pressure, Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s government was forced to retreat on the issue of social security reform. The retreat was perceived by Simitis himself as a political defeat. However, the government may have shelved its decisions but not formally abandoned them. Therefore, in the context of social dialogue the government may have to negotiate social security reforms from a weak position. Hence, the most likely outcome is a compromise between the government and the unions, despite the fact that Simitis managed to strengthen his hand at the last party congress. The problem, however, not only remains but is continuously getting worse, and the only possible changes that the core of the reform proposals can make concern the already privileged pension groups. Kathimerini has long emphasized the importance of the problem and has underscored the need to tackle it effectively. That the overwhelming majority of citizens rejected the original proposals of Simitis, Papantoniou and Yiannitsis does not undo this fact. It merely maximizes the government’s responsibility to make daring changes with the aim of averting an unbearable social cost that threatens to disrupt the social security system in the medium term. The above implies that Simitis will have to ignore the potential political cost. In other words, Simitis faces the dilemma of either proving useful to the country or beneficial to his party. He should make his decision, bearing in mind that great political leaders are judged upon their contribution to the nation, not their party.

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