By Tony Rigopoulos
Greece’s parliament voted Monday in favor of a government bill to distribute 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in one-off welfare handouts.
According to the bill, 720 million euros will be distributed by mid-December to nearly 3.4 million Greeks. The first to receive the “social dividend” will be unemployed youths and low-income pensioners.
Some 360 million euros will be handed to Greece’s main power utility Public Power Corp. in an attempt to prevent further increases in power bills. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the amount will also lead to “reductions (in power bills) for 300,000 beneficiaries”.
Another 315 million euros will be given to pensioners in December as compensation for what Tsipras called “illegal health contribution payments” made from 2012 to 2016.
The bill also includes reparations for citizens whose properties were destroyed by deadly floods that struck the Greek capital Athens last week.
Lawmakers engaged in a heated discussion today in parliament and Tsipras clashed with opposition leaders who argued that the amount is not enough to compensate for the injustices and the wrongdoings by the government.
“All indicators are rising and the country is expected to score record growth rates close to 2% for the first time in a decade,” Tsipras said in his speech today.
All parties voted in favor of the bill except for the nationalist extreme right Golden Dawn party.
Tsipras had announced his decision to hand out the 1.4 billion euros in a televised message a week ago, but voting was postponed due to the deadly floods.
The European Commission has not expressed any deep disagreement. According to an EC official who spoke to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the “ideas” have been discussed with the Greek authorities.
“Tonight’s announcements seem broadly in line with these discussions,” the official said after Tsipras had publicly announced the bill.