OPINION

The time bomb of social security

The debate about reforming the social security system is heating up again. That was to be expected, as long-term prospects of the problem easing up appear grim. Demographic trends inspire little hope, as the ratio between those who contribute money to social security funds and the pensioners who depend on those contributions is getting smaller. True, streamlining the labor status of migrants and their incorporation into the country’s social security system may postpone the expiry date of the system, but will not solve it. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis retained a clear-cut stance on the issue during a weekend press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair. «We, at this moment, believe that we must implement existing legislation. And under no circumstances – and I say this as a matter of principle – should political errors or state failures be shifted onto the shoulders of the economically challenged. This is a political belief that I would never violate,» stressed the conservative prime minister. His message, it appears, was received by the unions and employers. «Opening a dialogue on social security reform is inevitable and (the dialogue) will have to take place from scratch… (Social security reform) constitutes a problem that can only be solved on a consensual basis. No one stands to benefit from any rupture with the unions and employers,» Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, chairman and chief executive of the Federation of Greek Industries, said yesterday. He is right. But the need for consensus cannot be any pretext for postponing indefinitely a settlement. To be sure, previous governments have seriously mishandled the issue of social security reform in the past, proposing – or rather announcing – ill-conceived measures that backfired, provoking social unrest. Past experience should act as a guide for the future. The new administration must not turn a blind eye to the crisis, and instead must seek to discuss the various aspects of the problem with those affected by the now-mandatory changes. Besides, the problem is bound to gain intensity as social security funds will by the day face greater difficulty in meeting their obligations to the insured. In just a short while, the problem could become impossible to tackle.