OPINION

Fixing the social security system

A compromise settlement on the issue of banks’ social insurance appears to be close at hand. This expectation is based on the fact that all interested parties – banks, bank employees and the government – have agreed to work toward a solution to the problem. Without doubt, efforts to reach a settlement have been stepped up because of an inexorable time frame imposed by the European Union. An EU regulation requires all EU companies listed on a regulated market to use international accounting standards (IAS) from 2005 onward. This means trouble for those firms that have not yet managed to sort out their social insurance problems by the end of next month. Nevertheless, should developments rejuvenate hopes for a commonly acceptable solution on the social insurance matter, this alone would mark a huge success for a sizable category of employees. At the same time, it would launch a process to solve the country’s social security problem as a whole. However, comments made by the responsible government officials are hardly promising of the government’s intention to view things from that perspective. Evidently bound by concerns of political cost, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday spoke of the need for a dialogue on social security reform, quickly adding that he believes the time is «not ripe» to begin a discussion of the issue. One hopes that government calls for dialogue are not a pretext for buying time or indefinitely postponing serious measures – just to keep everyone happy. If there is a dialogue, it must take place within a set time frame. And it must lead to clear proposals and solutions. The time is not only ripe but way overdue. A crisis in social security is imminent, given the unfavorable demographic trends, as a declining number of insured workers have to sustain a growing number of pensioners. Each delay simply means that even more painful remedies will have to be imposed in the future. That would put at risk the solidarity between workers and pensioners.