It sounded too good to be true: on Tuesday, Greece’s state-run ANA news agency announced that the government was launching a scheme that would ensure “700,000 persons” would receive a guaranteed minimum income.
“Govt presents ‘minimum guaranteed income’ for 700,000 persons,” trumpeted the main story on ANA’s English-language site, while its parent Greek-language site declared “«Δίχτυ ασφαλείας» για 700.000 δικαιούχους ανακοίνωσε η κυβέρνηση”.
On both sites, the story was illustrated with photographs of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, who attended and spoke at the launch of the measure, as did the deputy premier, Evangelos Venizelos, and the labour minister, Yiannis Vroutsis.
“The implementation of the measure will start on a pilot basis in 13 municipalities and will cover a [sic] 7 percent of the population, that is 700,000 persons,” read the ANA wire on the launch. (Or, as it said in in Greek, “Το πρόγραμμα θα εφαρμοστεί πιλοτικά σε 13 δήμους της χώρας και θα καλύψει περίπου το 7% του πληθυσμού δηλαδή 700.000 άτομα.”)
Although the ANA wire didn’t specify the names of the municipalities, other sites named them as: Drama, Edessa, Grevena, Halkida, Ioannina, Kallithea (in Athens), Karditsa, Lefkada, Malevizi (Crete), Mesolongi, Tripoli, Samos and Syros.
Later, as more detailed reports appeared in the media, it became clear that the pilot programme would run for six months only and would be paid out to only “30,000 people” (Kathimerini), a far cry from the “700,000” figure being touted elsewhere.
Another figure not mentioned in today’s reports was that the pilot programme will cost €20m, as stated last month by the Parliamentary Budget Office, which pointed out that Greece is the only EU country not to have implemented a guaranteed minimum income scheme.
If the scheme is rolled out to cover the entire country and to benefit “700,000 people”, then this will happen in 2016 and would cost in the region of €850m to €1bn (Kathimerini), a huge amount of money that hasn’t even been secured.
Despite the ANA headline being so clearly misleading, swaths of the Greek press simply regurgitated it, with the website of Ta Nea, one of the country’s biggest selling newspapers, even claiming that “700,000 people in 13 municipalities” would receive the benefit.
Coincidentally, the total population of the 13 municipalities happens to be about 700,000, which would mean that everyone would receive something. Well, early elections seem to be on the cards.