After eight years of austerity, over-taxation, and huge unemployment rates, and as next year’s barrage of auctions of foreclosed properties approaches, the government has announced a slew of welfare handouts for a variety of social groups, leading many to believe that snap elections may be in the offing for 2018.

Following the disbursal of a 500 euro “social dividend” to 1.3 million households in the lowest income brackets, there have been a series of social welfare stipends announced by the government.

They include a one-off payment of between 500 and 2,100 euros for residents of the 27 islands where the 30 percent VAT discount ends on 31 December, a subsidy for households that cannot afford heating oil to install a natural gas connection, a 400 euro one-off for unemployed youth (reportedly without a family income criterion), and a stipend for those whose electricity was cut off to reconnect their service, are all among the Christmas gifts that the government has handed out to those most in need.

But if the above much-needed benefits are intended to show that the government feels the pain of the poor, other government policies which were agreed to with creditors and come into effect in 2018 may turn working class gratitude into rage.

Expecting a popular outcry over tens of thousands of auctions of foreclosed properties next year, the government just passed a law that penalises the obstruction of property auctions.

Creditors concerned

EU sources tell Ta Nea that creditors are expressing serious concerns over the almost daily announcement of handouts, as they fear that what they view as pork barrel politics may presage a loosening of implementation of government commitments in various areas.

Hence, Brussels is signaling that agreement has not been reached on how to support island populations, some kneeling under the weight of the migration crisis. Theoretically, that could mean that announced benefits could be nipped in the bud.

European Commission alarm bells

The European Commission yesterday made clear that it is closely monitoring all these decisions of the Greek government, that any changes to its commitments must be agreed to with creditors, and that this has been stressed both at the political and the technical experts’ level.

Elena Laskari