Greek economy minister quits in housing stipend row

minister-resign

ATHENS: Greece’s economy minister quit early Tuesday, the prime minister’s office said, hours after his wife was ousted as a junior minister over a housing stipend controversy.

“Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accepted the resignation of Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

Papadimitriou’s wife Rania Antonopoulos, the junior labour minister, had been ousted hours earlier.

The case has embarrassed the government, which has pledged to eliminate state profligacy and has imposed tax hikes and benefits cuts on Greeks.

The pair, who were prominent US-based economists before both took leave of absence to return to Greece to join the government in in 2015 and 2016, while keeping a permanent home in the US.

But despite being personally wealthy, Antonopoulos sparked a controversy after it emerged she had requested a 1,000-euro (US$1,200) monthly housing stipend available to government members without permanent homes in Athens.

The case was exposed by pro-opposition daily Eleftheros Typos last week.

Antonopoulos on Monday said she had received 23,000 euros (US$28,000) over two years and was technically within her rights to do so.

“It was never my intention to insult the Greek people,” she said in a statement.

“I understand that my financial standing, as reflected in my tax declaration, has increased public outrage,” she added.

The pair are senior scholars at the New York-based Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

In 2015, she declared stocks worth US$340,000 and an annual income of 70,000 euros.

Papadimitriou in 2015 declared a portfolio of some US$2.7 million and an income of over US$450,000.