ATHENS – Greek opposition parties and media reacted on Tuesday after the prime minister announced on Greek television he would share 1.4 billion euros ($1.64 billion) from the 2017 fiscal surplus among pensioners and low-wage earners.
Alexis Tsipras announced late Monday that 720 million euros would be distributed among 3.4 million Greeks earning less than 9,000 euros annually, or 18,000 euros in the case of family households.
“For a second year, we are in a position to distribute a social dividend to the people who need it the most,” Tsipras said in his televised statement.
Another 315 million euros will be assigned to compensate Greek pensioners who between 2012 and 2016 were overcharged for their National Health insurance contributions, as ruled recently by the Greek Supreme Administrative Court.
According to Tsipras, these handouts are proof of “the political and social priorities” of Syriza’s left-wing government.
The remaining 360 million euro will go to Greece’s debt-laden power utility company DEI to prevent future electricity bill increases.
Tsipras said he will send this week the bill to parliament to ensure payments are effective by December.
Greek financial media have said part of the surplus will be earmarked to create a financial safety net should Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office revise its forecast for this year.
Greek opposition parties responded to Tsipras announcement pointing out that the handouts were made possible by over-taxing the middle class.
Last year the Greek government shared 617 million euros in a one-off Christmas lump sum distributed among 1.5 million pensioners.
The Greek government estimated this year’s fiscal surplus will be around 3 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP), nearly doubling the 1.75 percent forecast in accordance with the austerity measures decreed by the nation’s third financial rescue plan.
But in a statement posted on the opposition’s New Democracy (ND) party website, it said that Greece’s government “takes a lot out from one pocket and returns a little to the other.”