ATHENS – With a crushing economic crisis leaving many destitute, Greek citizens who have no source of income can begin applying for a monthly stipend of between 200-400 euros as of Nov. 15.
The announcement came at the unveiling of the guaranteed minimum income scheme at Zappeio Hall in central Athens on Oct. 14, the latest in a string of promised government giveaways by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leder Antonis Samaras with his party falling behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
“Today we are inaugurating in Greece a tool of social policy for the protection of the protection of the weak by combating poverty and for the reintegration of those who are at risk of marginalization,” Samaras said.
The scheme is an apparent attempt to undo some of the damage done by harsh austerity measures imposed by the coalition government, which includes the PASOK Socialists, on orders of international lenders. Big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings have created record unemployment, with 1.3 million people out of work, and deep poverty.
The scheme will see some 700,000 people in 13 municipalities receive a total of between 850,000 and 1 million euros next year, involving Drama, Edessa, Grevena, Ioannena, Karditsa, Lefkada, Messolonghi, Halkida, Kallithea in Athens, Tripoli, Samos and Malevisiou in Crete. The pilot scheme, is aimed at covering 7 percent of the population.
“This is a special moment because we are presenting the country’s biggest social reform, which changes everything we knew about the welfare state,” said Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis. “This is an innovative institution that will form the pillar of social solidarity for tomorrow.”
The plan applies to individuals or families who have no other source of income. People with small incomes will be able to apply but they will receive a smaller benefit.
Under the program, people living on their own will receive 200 euros per month. Couples will get 300 euros plus another 50 euros for each child under the age of 18. If they have children over 18, the amount will increase to 100 euros.
This scheme was made possible, Samaras said, “with the surpluses being produced by the country.”
Figures published on Oct. 13 by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) showed that 23.1 percent of Greece’s population was at threat of poverty in 2013, the highest rate in the European Union, and 35.7 percent faced social exclusion.
“Greece became a laboratory for the European crisis. Now we are exiting the crisis and organizing Greece without the troika,” said Deputy Prime Minister and PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos.