Cyprus Lawmakers Approve Austerity Package

Posted August 26th, 2011 at 8:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Lawmakers in Cyprus have approved an economic austerity package in a bid to cut its huge budget deficit and ease concerns the Mediterranean island will need a European Union bailout.

Legislators Friday voted in favor of measures calling for tax increases and cuts to government workers' salaries, as well as for their pensions to be partially paid by a levy on how much they earn. The package is designed to cut the fiscal deficit to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product this year and to about 2 percent next year.

Lawmakers, however, deferred a vote on raising the nation's sales tax from 15 percent to 17 percent.

The vote comes after the ratings agencies Fitch, Standard & Poor's and Moody's downgraded Cyprus's credit rating — saying the island would likely need an EU bailout. Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias has said the country faces no immediate danger of running out of money.

The island, which is divided into Greek-controlled and Turkish-controlled entities, has been in political and economic turmoil since a munitions blast last month at a naval base killed 13 people. The explosion caused multi-billion-dollar destruction, which is expected to hamper the island's economic growth.

Three other European countries in the 17-member euro zone have received an international bailout. The European Union and International Monetary Fund have granted bailout packages to Greece, Ireland and Portugal since the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis erupted last year.