Greece will distribute 1.4 billion euros as a social dividend to pensioners and others hit hard by the country’s austerity programmes, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
The money is available because the country outperformed its bailout targets, he said.
Greece’s 2017 primary surplus excluding debt servicing costs is 1.75 percent of gross economic output, Tsipras said and called the performance “surprisingly good”.
Tsipras’s left-leaning coalition government came to power in 2015 promising to end austerity. It later signed up to the country’s third bailout, which expires in August 2018, in exchange for more belt-tightening.
The government now hopes that Greece’s fiscal performance will help it emerge from bailouts after seven years of crisis.
“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 600 million euros to low-income pensioners, a move that angered the country’s international lenders.
It was not clear if this year’s benefits had been approved 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.
Tsipras said about 720 million euros 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 around 11 million.
Another 315 million euros would be directed to pensioners, he said, to compensate them for “unfair” health contribution payments in 2012-2016, while 360 million euros would be paid to Greece’s biggest power utility, Public Power Corporation , to prevent electricity tariff increases.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)