Greek pensioners tear-gassed 

Greek pensioners tear-gassed 

Greek pensioners have been suffering under the government’s austerity programme for years. Source: Wikimedia

Police in Greece have used tear gas on pensioners at a rally against cuts to their state income.

Some pensioners tried to topple a police bus and others attempted to break through police lines. Greek pensions have been cut repeatedly and they are now worth 25-55 per cent less than they were 10 years ago.

After the protest, Nikos Toska, minister for citizens’ protection, said that tear gas was banned from being used against “protests by pensioners and workers”.

Pensions remain a sticking point in Greek dealings with international creditors. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has to make more than €1 billion in savings through pension reforms under the terms of an international bailout.

The National Pension Network last week said that nearly half of pensioners now have a monthly income below the official poverty line.

“We can’t live on €400,” the protesters chanted. “Let the rich pay for the crisis,” was another chant.

Monday’s protest was timed to coincide with a draft budget, which projects GDP growth of 2.7 per cent, being announced in parliament.

The 2017 budget sees the economy rebounding strongly after a seven-year slump, but analysts say continued austerity and tight credit conditions are likely to weigh on its recovery prospects amid uncertainty over Greek public debt.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos’ draft is expected to be finalised in coming weeks after the country resumes talks with global lenders on its financial reforms.

The Greek economy is forecast to contract by 0.3 per cent this year despite the healthy growth predicted for next year. Many see these targets as too optimistic, saying the economy is now entering a period of stagnation, rather than growth, having contracted by more than 25 per cent since the debt crisis of 2010.

“Although there are some indications pointing to some stabilisation in the economy, tight fiscal policy, difficult credit conditions and muted external growth are expected to limit the recovery in 2017,” said Diego Iscaro of IHS Global Insight consultants. Iscaro predicted 0.7 per cent growth next year.

“It’s just a big fat lie,” said 76-year-old Vassilis Bardas, referring to the 2.7 per cent prediction. “This government are the biggest liars of all the others put together.”

Among changes set to take effect in January will be a sharp rise in social security contributions, fuel tax and an increased levy on phone bills, while sweeping labour market reforms could be voted in by the end of 2016.

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