Pain ahead for Greece’s pensioners 113



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As Greece defiantly shouted “oxi!” yesterday, the nation went wild with patriotism. Blue and white flags sold faster than ouzo on a hot day.

But not all the people said “no” to the bailout deal offered by the IMF and other creditors. A third of the nation wanted to accept the deal on the table and make do.

After all, it could all go very wrong. Greece could be kicked out of the EU and forced to rebuild its economy with a return to the drachma.

For those who have worked hard all their lives and don’t have the time or energy to start from scratch, the uncertainty must be terrifying.

What would happen to the older generation in a nation with a collapsed economy and almost 50 per cent youth unemployment rate? At best, they would become a burden on their children; the worst is unthinkable.

The pension has been one of the main sticking points for negotiations between Greece and the creditors, including the International Monetary Fund.

Existing austerity measures have seen the pension in Greece shrink, with further cuts proposed in the terms of the bailout deal the country rejected.

Greece’s pensioners in recent weeks flooded banks, withdrawing their money for fear it would disappear forever. When the country officially went into default and the banks put a 60-euro limit on daily transactions, many older people without debit cards were caught without cash.

On Friday the world watched as Greece’s retirees stormed the banks and they were devastating scenes. One man collapsed to the ground in tears, his useless savings book beside him.

The 77-year-old man was retired mine worker Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, who had queued up at four banks in the hope of withdrawing a pension on behalf of his wife. When he was told he could not withdraw his 120 euros ($133), it was all too much and he collapsed in tears. Mr Chatzifotiadis told AFP, “I see my fellow citizens begging for a few cents to buy bread. I see more and more suicides. I am a sensitive person. I can not stand to see my country in this situation,” he said. Another retiree, 59-year-old Billis Vaghelis, told Fairfax on the weekend he would vote to reject the bailout deal. He said his vote was a “No to [German chancellor Angela] Merkel, a No to [EU president Jean-Claude] Juncker, who have been threatening the survival of our country”. “They have been devouring and humiliating Greece,” he said. “We want an end to further (austerity) measures, no more reductions to wages and pensions that render people hopeless and violate their dignity.” A fifth of Greece’s population are pensioners, and that figure is set to rise. However, the amount of money held in pension funds has dropped by €25bn in the last five years. This is partly due to the massive unemployment rate, which means there aren’t enough contributions from the working population.

Zina Ravi, 79, relies entirely on her pension and says she is still in debt every month.
She is one of the high numbers of Greeks claiming a pension – and is having to help a middle-aged son who is now one of many unemployed Greeks.

“I am always in debt,” she told Reuters. “I can’t even imagine going to the cinema or the theatre like I did in the past.”

Whatever happens next, it’s going to cost pensioners but at least the prime minister is standing by his January election promise not to cut pension rates. Here’s hoping the rest of the EU shows as much compassion.

How would you have voted in the referendum: yes for a financial bailout that meant further cuts to your pension; or no in the hope the prime minister can renegotiate with the creditors?

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  1. It is a terrible situation, they must be frightened and unsure of the future, I wish the people of Greece all the best of good Aussie luck

  2. Make me realise how lucky we are in Australia. The pension may not be huge but we get it every fortnight.

    3 REPLY
    • Yes we have been lucky but for those not there yet our super gets smashed and that is what they expect us to live on in retirement in the future. It’s a worry. The bad decisions of other countries affects us too.

  3. This is a big reminder to us here to fight all the way any cuts in our small pensions..I feel so sorry for Greek baby boomers

  4. But why should people in countries that work till they are nearly 70 pay/bailout those that retire in their 50’s, The stats show over 90% retie before 60, Great for some. German bails them out and their retirement age is 67 and about to go up to 69! fair suck of the sauce bottle!

    9 REPLY
    • I can’t understand that if the eurozone has a shared currency, why it doesn’t have shared conditions. Why don’t they all retire at the same age etc?

    • The people don’t set the retirement age..Governments do. I feel sorry for the Greek people they are wearing austerity because of Government inaction

    • Germany and others paid the Greeks to stop manufacturing! Germany took up the slack and their workers had to comply with no wage increases for over five years! Germany set up this disaster. They are nothing but bullies who want to dominate the Euro zone. Good on you Greece fight them at their own game. Hitler Merkel is the Chancellor this time and it is a war! She will lose just like the other one.

    • Oh Switzerland you are the only wise Country in the world. Being self sufficient and not joining anyone. Differently no free trade agreements with China either.

    • Just curious, but what did Greece use to manufacture and export, I can’t think of anything, and yet I know they must have manufactured something other than Ouzo and olive oil and I’m not sure about that. Probably more producing than manufacturing. There must have been some industry according to Robina?

    • How many Greeks actually paid taxes Robina and how many public servants retired at fifty on triple pensions.

  5. I don’t understand. They have had penury to change. They made adeliberate decision to take this path. No one made them. Why then is there an expectation that”someone else” will pay for them?

    1 REPLY
  6. Yes but Greece was asked 5 years ago to implement some changes to their taxation system retirement benefits and overhaul their public services and they did nothing they are living beyond there means and other European countries are funding it can’t go on

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