Rania Antonopoulou, Greek alternate Labor Minister in charge of tackling unemployment, handed over her resignation on Monday under fire from both the opposition and the public for receiving an annual rental subsidy of €12,000 per year, despite being one of the wealthiest members of the Alexis Tsipras cabinet.
According to an exclusive report by the Athens conservative daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos, Antonopoulou made use of a provision for out-of-town MPs who receive a rental allowance in order to have lodging in Athens. This was legally extended to ministers in 2015 to allow for non-parliamentarian cabinet members to benefit. This subsidy is not means tested, which means that all MPs and cabinet members who are normally based outside of Athens are entitled to it, regardless of their income.
In what regards Antonopoulou, a New-York based economist and Bard College associate professor, who has had previous experience in the UN, she is thought to be one of the wealthiest ministers, alongside her husband, Minister for Development and Growth Dimitris Papadimitriou. According to their tax records, the couple declare an annual income of more than half a million dollars, while their assets and property portfolios are valued in the millions. According to Greek media, they own a luxury villa of 300 sq.m. plus 180 sq.m. supplementary space, 80 sq.m. swimming pool on the island of Syros; a 110 sq.m. apartment in New York; a 31.6 sq.m. apartment in Glyfada, Athens; assets in stocks and bank deposits worth more than €3,000,000.
The news that she had been receiving the €1,000 a month subsidy for the past two years was met with furor by the Greek public opinion, echoed by the opposition and also members within the Tsipras government who called for her resignation. The Greek PM himself called the minister and reprimanded her over the issue.
Antonopoulou, who is considered one of the most successful members of the cabinet (during her tenure unemployment fell by five points, from 25.7 per cent to 20.7 per cent, with forecasts predicting a further decline), apologised and promised to return the sum, while handing down her resignation to Tsipras who accepted it. The government says it plans to abolish the housing subsidy for Cabinet members who are not members of parliament.