OPINION

Ersatz reform of social security

One line of thought regarding the government’s social security reform that says to put all the drama about pensions and funds aside for a while and turn your attention to collecting some of the 7 billion euros floating around in the black economy, which (as you yourself have acknowledged) is raging out of control. It is a valid argument to say that the warped development of the state machinery stunts entrepreneurship and fosters the growth of the informal economy, but anyone arguing that social security reform is unnecessary is wrong. The reform is necessary and should go through regardless of the financing issue, simply within the context of development and social justice. The development part of the argument concerns (in part) the rigidity of the system of contributions on the one hand and, on the other, the distribution of the pension resources that have accumulated, which wholly ignores the needs of young people who are just starting out in their professional and personal lives. The issue of social justice involves the current status quo, which reproduces and perpetuates the inequalities in citizens’ professional lives, even after retirement. The fact that reform is being attempted is not the problem. But the fact that the effort is not a serious one is. It is a false attempt at reform, a quick-fix solution.Some measures are being pushed through fast mainly for reasons of cash flow. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas introduced the Solidarity Account of Social Security Organizations (LAFKA) in order to cover the deficit of the professional drivers’ pension fund (TSA). Employment and Social Security Minister Vassilis Magginas, rather than shaving a certain amount off everyone’s pension, is trying to deduct 10 percent from «wealthier» social security funds to cover the pensions of the OAEE fund for the self-employed, which had already liquidated National Bank shares to meet its payments. Other measures are being advanced blindly, such as the unification of social security funds, probably in order to facilitate the government in the next stage (by breaking down the problem into edible chunks) without having to worry about dialogue and consensus. Many foundations should, of course, be unified and there are many different ways of going about it, each with its pros and cons. But no one has really studied these options. The retirement age should be the same for everyone (except for those in hazardous and unhealthy professions). No funds should enjoy privileged status. The lowest pensions should be raised. Long-term changes, with consensus, should be made. Yet, none of this is being done. No one expected the social security issue to be resolved by a single government but we did expect the issue to be opened for debate in a responsible manner. But even this has not been the case.