By Constantinos Psillides
THE government proposal for a targeted pension spending, which is expected to save up to 10m euros, was met with harsh criticism by the opposition parties yesterday.
AKEL and EDEK both made clear that they will not vote for the amendment, accusing the government of targeting low income citizens, especially housewives.
According to former Labour minister Sotiroula Charalambous, who speaks on behalf of AKEL’s affiliated trade union PEO, the government proposed that anyone over the poverty line should not receive social pension benefits.
The poverty line for Cyprus is set at a monthly income of €1,191.
Based on figures provided by the Labour ministry, the amendment affects around 3,000 households. Social pension recipients are those over 65 who have made insufficient social insurance contributions, either by not being part of the salaried workforce or by not receiving social insurance benefits.
“This is not just any benefit. It’s a benefit for women who stayed home and raised a family or for some other reason couldn’t make social insurance contributions”, said Charalambous, adding that AKEL is considering not making a counter proposal because “the government probably wouldn’t even consider it.”
Speaking to the press on Saturday, Labour minister Zeta Aimilianidou said that the proposal is not yet finalised and at present is a suggestion by Finance ministry technocrats. She pointed out that the 10m saved on pension cuts could benefit other groups, such as the unemployed.
Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos responded to the criticism, accusing AKEL of emptying the state coffers during the previous administration, adding that it was unfair that the current government is being criticised by those who led the country to its current state.
Papadopoulos noted that the government aims at targeting social insurance benefits.
“What is it exactly that they want? For millionaires to be paid social insurance pensions and take the money away from those who really need it?” he wondered, adding that sacrifices must be made.
DISY leader Averof Neofitou issued a statement saying that he would soon be meeting with Finance minister Harris Georgiadis on the subject and expressed his belief that a compromise can be reached. “Of course we won’t be cutting social pensions, but its socially unjust for a multimillionaire who never had to work a day in her life to receive a social pension”, he noted.