Greece to Dis­trib­ute 1.4b Eu­ros To Cit­i­zens Hit by Aus­ter­ity


ATHENS (Dis­patches) - Greece will dis­trib­ute 1.4 bil­lion eu­ros ($1.63 bil­lion) as a so­cial div­i­dend to pen­sion­ers and oth­ers hit hard by the coun­try’s aus­ter­ity pro­grams, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras said.

The money is avail­able be­cause the coun­try has beaten its 2017 bailout tar­get for a pri­mary sur­plus - which ex­cludes debt ser­vic­ing costs - of 1.75 per­cent of gross eco­nomic out­put, he said.

Tsipras came to power in 2015 promis­ing to end aus­ter­ity but was later forced to sign up to a new EU bailout, the coun­try’s third, in ex­change for more belt-tight­en­ing to keep Greece in the euro zone. He was re-elected and his term ends in late 2019.

His left­ist-led gov­ern­ment hopes that af­ter seven years of cri­sis, Greece’s fis­cal per­for­mance will help it emerge from EU bailouts in Au­gust 2018, when its cur­rent res­cue pack­age ends.

“For a sec­ond year, we are in a po­si­tion to dis­trib­ute a so­cial div­i­dend to the peo­ple who need it the most. Bet­ter pre­pared and more ef­fec­tive this year, we will be able to pay out an even big­ger amount,” he said in a tele­vised state­ment.

Last year, Tsipras un­ex­pect­edly an­nounced that the state would pay out about 600 mil­lion eu­ros to low-in­come pen­sion­ers, a move that an­gered the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional lenders.

This year’s hand­outs have been ap­proved in prin­ci­ple by the lenders, who are re­view­ing Greece’s bailout progress. Their rep­re­sen­ta­tives are ex­pected in Athens this month to re­sume talks on fis­cal tar­gets and on re­forms. “We (the in­sti­tu­tions) have been dis­cussing these ideas with the Greek au­thor­i­ties. The an­nounce­ments seem broadly in line with these dis­cus­sions, which have not been con­cluded yet,” an EU Com­mis­sion spokesman said, adding that the pro­pos­als would be ex­am­ined by the lenders.

Tsipras said about 720 mil­lion eu­ros would be dis­trib­uted by mid-De­cem­ber to 3.4 mil­lion Greeks as a one-off, tax-free ben­e­fit, based on in­come and wealth cri­te­ria and house­hold size. The coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is about 11 mil­lion.

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