January 31, 2023

News Cymru

Two sides to every headline

Greek Government Culling Pensioners?

First they cut the pensions of all pensioners regardless of the size of their pension (for example even pensioners drawing a 400Euro a month pension had a 20Euro cut) and then they increase the cost of heating their house.

Over the past ten years there was a trend for elderly people in villages to convert their stoves from coal and wood to oil. Heating oil was cheaper than wood not to mention the fact that an oil fired stove does not involve hulking round lumps of wood or buckets of coal.

But the government has now turned the tables by bringing the price of heating oil to the same price of diesel (or a 30% price increase).

The government claims that people can get a rebate on the tax if they need it but if you have ever had to deal with the government bureaucracy in Greece you know it is probably less painful to live in the cold.

And there is a knock effect of the duty increase on heating oil. Many small petrol stations, especially those in isolated regions (of which Greece has countless examples) depend on the supply of heating oil to keep their businesses going. The effect of these price increases is that many of these petrol stations in mountain villages may be forced to close, further isolating remote communities.

The massive increases in the cost of petrol and diesel has already increased the cost of living in the countryside but people in the country having to travel twenty or fifty miles to get petrol and diesel is another blow to an already fragile economy.

The evidence of the millions if not billions of Euros that the Greek government is pumping into gas infrastructure could go some way to explaining the extortionate duty increases on heating oil. In order for there to be a return on this massive investment it is in the interest of the Greek government to push people from oil to gas.

The claim used to be that gas was a more efficient way of heating a property but as people who have changed over to gas in Greece will testify, this is anything but the case. And while this apparent government policy of pushing people to use gas may be tolerable in cities, villages do not have the gas infrastructure so they have no other alternative than the oil they are using.

Wood and wood based fuels have seen a 100% increase in demand in 2012 alone but this does not help pensioners who may be unable to carry wood into their homes. The fact that they may have to be doing it in cold or icy conditions makes the duty increase on oil look at best like a government that is utterly psychotic in its quest for the money of taxpayers and at worst like a deliberate attempt to hurt if not kill pensioners in Greece in order to cut spending.

Thankfully the use of air conditioning is widespread in Greece for obvious reasons but many air conditioning units, especially older models do not have inverters, that is they can only blow cold air.

It is hard to exaggerate the damage that the duty on heating oil will have on people living in cities let alone people in the mountains. It will inevitably lead to people being left in the cold, it will inevitably lead to more pensioners getting injured as they struggle to carry wood and coal in cold and icy conditions and it will inevitably lead to people spending more money on heating their homes in an economy that is already in free fall.

And all this is the name of increasing government revenue so the government can attempt to service a unmanageable debt for a few months more.

If this is the point that Greece has come to, where the lives of pensioners are being put at risk in the name of servicing government debt then questions need to be asked, is it worth the death of those who are most vulnerable simply in order for the public sector staff to keep their jobs?

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