Lenders approve in principle government’s social dividend announcement

RTE — Greece will distribute €1.4 billion as a social dividend to pensioners and others hit hard by the country’s austerity programmes, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said.

The money is available because the country has exceeded its 2017 bailout target for a primary surplus  of 1.75% of gross economic output, he said.

Tsipras 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 €600m to low-income pensioners, a move that angered the country’s international lenders. 

This year’s payments 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 €720m 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.

Another €315m would be directed to pensioners, he said, to compensate them for “unfair” health contribution payments in 2012-2016, while €360m would be paid to Greece’s biggest power utility, Public Power Corporation, to prevent electricity tariff increases.