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  #331  
Old 11-24-2017, 02:47 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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GREECE

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...ook-everything


Quote:
Greek Pensioners Protest Against Government That 'Took Everything'
Spoiler:
ATHENS (Reuters) - Several hundred elderly Greeks marched through Athens on Thursday, protesting against a government they say "took everything" with a new round of cuts to pensions and crumbling health care benefits.

Greece's three bailouts since 2010 have repeatedly taken aim at the pension system. Cuts have pushed nearly half its elderly below the poverty line with incomes of less 600 euros ($710.70) a month.

With nearly a quarter of the workforce unemployed, a quarter of children living in poverty and benefits slashed, parents have grown dependent on grandparents for handouts.

But after the cuts to pensions, some Greeks have seen their monthly cheque fall between 40 and 50 percent in seven years. After rent, utility bills and health care, they barely make ends meet.


"I have never seen the country in this state, not even during war," said 80-year-old Nikos Georgiadis, a former hotel employee whose pension has been reduced by 40 percent.

"Pensioners are impoverished, and not only can they not afford to buy medicines, some are looking for food in the trash," he said, leaning on a tree to catch his breath.

New changes to pension regulations mean more cuts are expected in 2019. Pensioners also have to pay more out of pocket for health care.

Fotini Karavidou, a 75-year-old retired accountant who joined the march in a wheelchair, said she had to "cut back on everything" to afford medicine.

"It's simple - many pensioners cannot afford to eat and to buy medicine," said Yiannis Karadimas, 67, who heads a local pensioners association.

Karadimas said it was "a joke" that the government had legalised marijuana for medical purposes while cutting back on health care spending.

"They're killing us and they're mocking us at the same time," he said.

The popularity of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has waned since he first won elections in 2015. In an effort to rebuild public support, the government gave Greece's 1.3 million pensioners a one-off Christmas bonus last year, worth 300 to 500 euros each.

But the handouts have failed to whip up any obvious increase in support. Pensioners have taken to the streets time and again in recent months. About 2,000 people joined Thursday's march.

"Unfortunately, I voted for them, and they turned out to be the biggest liars of all," Georgiadis, the pensioner, said. "It (the government) promised us everything, and it took everything."
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  #332  
Old 12-04-2017, 04:26 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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ITALY
https://www.reuters.com/article/ital...-idUSL8N1NY5R5

Quote:
Economists fret as Italian politicians promise to scrap pension cuts
* Pension reform helped calm markets during debt crisis

* Raises retirement age as life expectancy rises

* Government has exempted some categories
* Popular parties vow to repeal it after vote
Spoiler:
ROME, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Many of Italy’s leading politicians are promising more money for pensioners after elections next year, campaigning to undo reforms that economists say stabilised the country’s finances at the height of the euro zone debt crisis six years ago.

Italy still spends more than 16 percent of its GDP on state pensions, the second highest percentage in Europe after Greece, despite a package of deep cuts imposed by a government of technocrats in 2011 that helped halt a sell-off of its bonds.

The reform, named after then-Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, was never fully accepted by Italians. It raised the retirement age and requires further rises to be phased in over time, with the next hike -- to 67 years from 66 years and 5 months -- due to take place on Jan. 1, 2019.


But politicians from right-wing and anti-establishment parties expected to be among the leaders after an election in May next year say they want to repeal the reform, blocking future cuts and undoing those that have already taken place.

Economists say such a move could be a disaster for state finances. Italy’s ratio of debt to GDP is also the second highest in the European Union after Greece.

“If they undo the pension reform it will throw into doubt the sustainability of Italy’s pension system and its public finances in general,” said Lorenzo Codogno, head of LC Macro Advisors and former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

Tito Boeri, the head of state pensions agency INPS, told Reuters on Wednesday that net emigration and a falling birth rate meant it would be hard to fund the pension system over the next 30 years, even if current legislation is left untouched.

“I am reading about proposals from the parties (on pensions) that would cost billions and billions of euros, but we face very serious problems,” he said.

The centre-left government has so far resisted calls from senior officials in the ruling Democratic Party (PD) to scrap the 2019 increase in the retirement age.

However, under trade union pressure, it recently exempted 15 labour categories with “onerous” jobs, ranging from midwives and nursery school teachers to cleaners and lorry drivers.

That was not enough for the largest trade union, the CGIL, which has called for a day of street protests on Saturday, and it may be only a foretaste of what happens after the election.

“The Fornero law is a scandal,” says Carla Ruocco, a prominent lawmaker from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which leads in opinion polls. “It keeps people at work against their will, leads to an older labour force and makes it harder for young people to find work.”

DEBT BURDEN

Anti-immigrant Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, a core member of a centre-right coalition that looks set to win most parliamentary seats, says abolishing the Fornero Law should be “the first act” of the next government.

The law gradually raised the pension age for women to 65 in 2018 from 60 in 2011, to bring it more into line with the rules for men, and prescribed regular increases for both men and women thereafter, based on updated estimates of life expectancy.

It also tightened up the requirements for taking earlier retirement, which are now calculated on the basis of the number of years worked, rather than age.

While 5-Star and the Northern League want to bring down the retirement age, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a coalition ally of Salvini, has promised to raise the pensions of those who have already retired. The 81-year-old media tycoon has pledged to double minimum pensions to 1,000 euros per month, at a cost of at least 4 billion euros ($4.74 billion) per year.

Politicians of all stripes say the pension system has now reached long-term sustainability, though some economists dispute this, saying trends on demographics and economic growth are more negative than those assumed under the Fornero reform.

Whatever the trends in the longer term, for the next 10 years Italy will continue to fork out far more on pensions than most of its partners, according to Eurostat projections.

This not only makes it harder for the country to reduce its huge public debt, but sucks resources from other, more productive uses such as investment in education and infrastructure. ($1 = 0.8443 euros) (Additional reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; Editing by Peter Graff)

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  #333  
Old 01-08-2018, 08:53 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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ITALY

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...law-if-elected

Quote:
Italy's Rightist Bloc Vows to Reverse Pension Law if Elected

Spoiler:
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's rightist parties agreed on Sunday to the outlines of a joint manifesto for the country's March national election, including pledges to slash taxes, crack down on migrants and reverse planned increases to the retirement age.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, and its two allies, the far-right Northern League and Brothers of Italy, look set to win the March 4 vote, but are expected to fall short of an absolute majority.

The leaders of the three groups, who have an often testy relationship, gathered on Sunday for their first campaign strategy meeting, putting out a brief statement to highlight their shared policy priorities.

"Less taxes, less bureaucracy, less binds from Europe, more help for those who need it, more security for everyone," said the statement, released after four hours of talks in one of Berlusconi's luxury villas.


One of their main early goals if they win power would be to eliminate the "damaging effects" of 2011 legislation, named after then-Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, which called for staggered increases in the retirement age.

Italy still spends more than 16 percent of its gross domestic product on state pensions, the second highest percentage in Europe after Greece. Economists warn that undoing the law would cost billions of euros and alarm financial markets.

But the law is highly unpopular with Italians and the Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini, has made its repeal its number one priority. "Cancelling the Fornero Law (is) in the center-right program. Mission accomplished," Salvini wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

He also said that the three parties had agreed to expel all illegal migrants and "take control" of the country's borders, which are currently covered by the EU free-travel Schengen zone.

Sunday's statement made no reference to another League proposal - exiting the euro currency - but did commit the conservative bloc to introducing an unspecified flat tax.

The Northern League has called for a 15 percent flat tax, while Berlusconi has proposed a flat rate of between 20 and 25 percent. Income tax bands currently run from 23 to 43 percent.

The bloc has given no indication of how it intends to pay for its program, saying only that by lowering the tax rate, more people will pay up, raising the overall tax take.

Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday that the proposed flat tax was "not sustainable".

With the election less than two months away, all Italian parties are looking to win votes with eye-catching ideas.

The ruling center-left Democratic Party suggested last week that it might abolish the television license fee, while the leftist Free and Equal party on Sunday proposed making university education free for all.


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