OPINION

Indebted state

At the beginning of November, the director of TEBE, the social security fund for the self-employed, issued a despairing plea to the government: to pay part of what it owes to the fund within the month so that it can pay out pensions and the annual Christmas bonus. With reserves of just 49 million euros and pending payments of 166 million at the end of the month, TEBE is asking for 111 million euros – which corresponds to the state contribution for the year 2002 – in order to pay December pensions without dipping into its reserves. The crisis at TEBE raises, yet again, the thorny issue of the wholly deleterious role the state has played in plunging social security funds in such desperate financial straits. It is not just to TEBE, to which it owes a total of 400 million euros, that the state is in debt. Its debt to IKA comes to the scarcely believable sum of 1.3 trillion drachmas – about 3.9 billion euros. When private individuals’ and companies’ debt to IKA, which in October 2004 stood at a (considerably lower) 2.4 billion euros – is taken into account, the comparison is revealing. The situation at the Farmers’ Pension Fund (OGA) is similar, despite the rescheduling of part of the debt in July through long-term bonds. Besides an overall debt of around 600 million euros, OGA is also asking the government for another 600 million euros it owes to hospitals. As is to be expected, these billions owed by the state to the the social security funds are not just sinking the funds themselves. They also burden the hospitals, and therefore the entire public health system, onto which the funds are shifting part of the debt. It is tragic that the worst enemy of the National Health System (ESY) and the social security funds is none other than the state itself. This wholly unacceptable state of affairs must be brought to an end. Someone has to answer for where the money went and who decided not to give it to the funds, thus undermining their viability. It’s obvious that here there is yet one more «concealed deficit,» since the money that was destined for the funds was used to plug other financial holes during the period when the now-threadbare, propagandistic notion of a «powerful Greece» was being floated, backed by the creative accounting of the previous government. Henceforward, the state should have the obligation to pay its debts as a sine qua non of policy. Otherwise, any debate on the social security issue is simply a farce.