Greek Parliament Approves Details of Austerity Plan

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 10:30 am (UTC-5)
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The Greek parliament has approved the details of its new austerity plan, clearing the way for release of more international aid for the debt-ridden government.

Lawmakers in Athens on Thursday voted for the specific measures proposed by Prime Minister George Papandreou in his $40 billion plan to raise taxes, cut spending and sell state-owned assets. Parliament passed the broad plan on Wednesday.

With the budget details approved, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have pledged to release a $17 billion share of the $156 billion bailout Greece secured last year.

The new funding will provide cash for the government to operate and pay debts until mid-September. Greece also expects to seek additional international help, another bailout of about the same size as last year's.

The austerity plan has drawn wide protests in Greece, and police clashed for a third day Thursday with demonstrators near the parliament building. Several hundred protesters and police were injured on Tuesday and Wednesday as worker unions declared a strike, bringing the country to a virtual standstill.

Government austerity plans also brought a large protest in Britain on Thursday, as thousands of teachers and civil servants went on strike to protest Prime Minister David Cameron's proposal to cut the number of civil servant jobs and benefits for workers.

The British government has proposed cutting $130 billion from public spending to reduce its deficit. The state pension age would be increased from 65 to 66, workers would have to contribute more toward their pensions and retirement payouts would be reduced.

Mr. Papandreou won the Wednesday vote in Greece by a larger-than-expected margin, 155 to 138. He had ardently campaigned for approval of the plan, imploring parliament to do everything to avoid default.

Key European leaders praised the Greek legislative action on Wednesday. The president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, had said the second favorable vote Thursday would lead to disbursement of the $17 billion from last year's bailout.

Many protesters feel the $40 billion austerity plan will impose harsh penalties on workers and pensioners, while sparing the wealthy. EU officials had warned that Greece had no choice but to adopt the austerity plan.