PASOK’s passive stance on pensions

Over the past few days, political exchanges have been dominated by a legislative amendment obliging bank workers to switch their auxiliary pensions to a central fund. It is quite common in Greece to make a big deal out of the relatively insignificant and to bypass genuinely major issues, to conceal them in favor of petty political interests and vote-grabbing. In this case, the major issue is the government’s desire to spur political debate about the future of the country’s social security system, especially as figures from all political parties publicly acknowledge that the pension reform issue constitutes a veritable time bomb threatening the foundations of the Greek economy. It is quite obvious that PASOK chief George Papandreou is seeking pretexts and strategic maneuvers that will allow him to stay out of the proposed dialogue. During a party session chaired by him earlier this week, it was decided that PASOK would set out conditions for its participation in the debate that would effectively annul any prospect of the problem actually being discussed: firstly, the opposition is to ask the government for the debate to be carried out on a «technical» level, that is without the participation of party representatives; it is also to request the presentation of an «agenda» outlining the most critical issues at stake, such as the retirement age and the size of pension contributions. It is clear why Papandreou is pursuing such unproductive tactics. Despite his claims to be seeking the voters’ mandate, the opposition leader is following the same old «ripe fruit» strategy, waiting to come to power on the back of the current government’s decline rather than through his own party’s policies.