Money-saving schemes hailed
The merging of municipalities and creation of regions to replace prefectures has saved Greece more than a billion euros, the government said yesterday as it unveiled further cost-cutting measures, this time in the health sector.
In a letter to the country’s political leaders, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who oversaw the socalled Kallikratis local government program, said that the scrapping of 709 municipalities and communities, the merging of 6,000 organizations into 1,500 and the replacement of 57 prefectures with 13 regions had reduced government spending by 1.2 billion euros.
Ragousis countered claims that local authorities are now underfunded. He said that municipalities have a combined annual budget of 4 billion euros while regions receive 670 million. The minister said that municipalities’ expenses run to 3.8 billion euros, 2.1 billion of which is spent on wages, while regions are budgeted to spend 582 million, 450 million of which will go on salaries.
Ragousis added that an effort would be made to ensure that municipalities pay off their debts, which stand at a combined total of 1.9 billion euros and that strict checks would be made on their finances.
Meanwhile, as of yesterday, five hospitals that had only been open to people insured with the IKA social security fund were made part of the National Health System and, therefore, open to all. Health Minister Andreas Loverdos confirmed the switchover, which makes four extra hospitals in Athens and one in Thessaloniki available to all patients.
The government is also hoping that a single body, EOPYY, will soon start handling the management of the day-to-day running of the health system, including staffing and procurement issues. This is expected to lead to a further reduction in expenses.