The Greek Deputy Minister gave an interview to the Economic Observer, the English Version of a Chinese newspaper talking about various subjects.
Concerning the pension reform, Theodoros Pangalos said that the problem we face is that Greece has an aging society. He added that pension reform is something important as 20 years later, pension funds will not have enough money to pay the pensioners. As a result, the age for pensions has to be increased.
“Currently, the legal age to get a pension is 60 for women and 65 for men and needs to be adjusted so that they are both the same age. However, the actual age of the average Greek pensioner is 53. They manage to get their funds earlier because of our specific social situations. If you live until 80, it means you have to have a pension fund for 30 years. It is very good to live for a long time, but the system is not sustainable.
Of course, lots of people are not happy with this solution. There have only been three general strikes in the public sector. The private sector has been functioning normally. Strikes are absolutely normal.
Of course, there are a lot of people saying they are disappointed, saying they don’t like the changes. My wages before the new measures were 6500 euros a month, which is the highest wage in the public sector, and have now been decreased to 4800; I lost more than a third of my income, and I am not happy with the changes. I have a wife and children, I am not a fool, but I have to cut down. There are things I could do before, but can no longer do. I have had to cut down on my holidays.
Moreover, Theodoros Pangalos said that a lot of people are willing to offer help to come out of this situation and want to have a solution within the European framework. As for the corruption he said that there was corruption, but now it has diminished.
“The real problem is we share our money and we have some systemic problems. The state is bankrupt because of the deficit the former government left. We, the current government, spend money we don’t have. We spent money we borrowed from abroad and now we have to pay it back.
The whole problem is the public sector. My party has been recruiting. People are growing useless because of the wrong idea that the public sector is the solution to unemployment. There is even this wrong idea that by recruiting people, that they will vote for you; this is a political and economic problem in Greece, and it needs to be solved now. It hurts a lot of people.”
He also mentioned that there is a crisis of confidence facing the political system as a whole. That’s why the government is currently changing the electorate system, the core of the entire political system, which will be put into effect in November.
“We have made quite a lot of institutional changes. You have to respond to the demands of the people. They demand more transparency, more balanced, more direct contact between the people and politics.”
He said that Greece doesn’t have an independent currency like the RMB and can not decide its value like China can. As a result, Greece has to ask the EU and the IMF for money to cover this liquidity problem. Those people will not give this money if Greece is not engaged in the process of making the deficit disappear, and assure them that there will no longer be a deficit in the future.
He underlined that “We must exclude the possibility of quitting the eurozone. The opposition is totally irresponsible; they are catering to nationalistic sentiments.
There are two scenarios. First, they kick us out, which is absolutely impossible because they saved us, and they gave us a mechanism which will work (an 110 billion Euro rescue system). Second, the people can do whatever they want. A referendum is possible and they can use it to decide what they want. But that would be total suicide and disastrous.”
Theodoros Pangalos also refered to the enormous gains Greece made since joining the eurozone. as well as the obligations.
Finally he said “It will take two years to evolve. To have a growth rate of up to 3 or 4% is possible. We have to improve on tourism, which is one of our largest industries; we have to find a new market to build industry, probably foreign investment from EU countries whose citizens issue licenses have the ability to buy homes and live here.
In terms of budget we will help to create a good atmosphere to foreign investors; we have all the ports, and ships and trains.”