President Nicos Anastasiades has referred to the Supreme Court a law granting pensions to widowers after parliament tinkered with the original government bill by expanding the scope of beneficiaries.
Earlier this month, parliament passed a law granting men a widowers’ pension irrespective of when their spouse died.
The law was based on a bill tabled by the government, under which men could only be eligible for a widower’s pension if their wife died on or after January 1, 2018.
But at the last minute Akel and the Greens inserted an amendment, making eligibility irrespective of the date of the spouse’s death. The law passed as amended.
The president refused to sign the amended law and will be referring it to the Supreme Court, on the grounds it is unconstitutional because the legislature took an action that brought about an increase in government spending – expanding the number of beneficiaries and thus the payouts.
It could take a year until the matter is resolved at the Supreme Court, due to backlog. In the interim, neither the government nor MPs may not introduce a new bill on the same matter.
The original government bill was given the nod by the cabinet in January, just days before the presidential elections.
The government’s stated intention was to correct an injustice at the expense primarily of men but also women: although both contributed to the social insurance fund (SIF), in the event of death, husbands were not entitled to a widower’s pension.
Expanding the benefit would entail raising people’s contributions to the SIF – which the government wanted to avoid at the time, given that contributions were set to increase anyway with the coming roll-out of the National Health Scheme in 2018.
The government had therefore proposed that contributions not be raised until 2024, and then only if an actuarial study should find that increasing contributions was necessary to keep the SIF afloat.
This has become a moot point now, as widowers will have to wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.