From the times of Spraos

It must have been the fall of 1986 when by chance we happened to meet and talk with professor Yannis Spraos…

From the times of Spraos |

It must have been the fall of 1986 when by chance we happened to meet and talk with professor Yannis Spraos.

Spraos was an exceptional man of the Left, who in December of 1944 fled to London with the help of his bourgeois family because in Athens the Organization X was after him and threatened to kill him.

Yannis Spraos was spared from those harsh days of the upcoming civil war, studied in Great Britain, became a professor at the university in London in 1965, acted as president of the anti-junta struggle over there and in 1985, now a pensioner, he was called by the Minister of Economy at the time, Kostas Simitis, to help in stabilizing the economy.

It is then, in a small office on the sixth floor at the Ministry of Economy where Mr. Spraos described to us for the first time the intensity and severity of the social insurance problem. At the time he told us that the social insurance problem was turning to a main source of imbalance in the Greek economy. Those first attempts to realize the problem ended abruptly when Kostas Simitis removed him from the Ministry of Economy in December of 1987.

About ten years later, when Kostas Simitis was Prime Minister, Professor Spraos returned and in of our participation in the Economic and Monetary Union, undertook the task of compiling reports on the major structural problems of the Greek economy.

One of those problems was the social insurance system and its prospects. The complete and detailed report left no room for misinterpretation.

The social insurance problem was turning into a bomb at the foundation of the economy and required an immediate resolution. The demographic development and aging population in conjunction with preserving pension privileges for large sections of the population and many needs in the economy demanded an immediate intervention according to Mr. Spraos.

The professor proposed raising the age of retirement, abolishing privileges and investigating spending in the pension system. At the time Mr. Spraos explained that if we want to have a decent social insurance system in the future, we must act now.

In 1997, when his report was published, there were major reactions from all sides. First and foremost from the populist media, along with unionists and parties lashed out against the report and its author.

Almost twenty years later we are experience the end of pensions, exactly as described by Yannis Spraos.

By chance, it has come down to Alexis Tsipras and his party, which at the time took the lead in attacking and taunting the professor, to manage the major issue, which in turn will determine the viability of the left government.

Antonis Karakousis

Originally published in the Sunday print edition

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