Greek parliament approves new austerity measures

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Athens, May 19 (IANS) The Greek parliament has approved a new austerity bill needed to receive the next instalment of a billion euro bailout loan, including new pension cuts and tax increases.

The votes of the left-wing Syriza party together with the government’s partner party, Independent Greeks, amounting to a total of 153, were sufficient for Parliament on Thursday to pass the new austerity measures, while 128 other lawmakers voted against the package, Efe news reported.

The parliamentary approval was a prerequisite for the Eurogroup to give the green light to the disbursement of the next bailout package, worth about 7 billion euros, at the meeting scheduled for May 22.

The government is confident that creditors will grant them further debt relief, with debts currently at 179 per cent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP), a level the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calls unsustainable.

The debt relief would allow Greece to enter the European Central Bank’s bond purchase plan soon, which in the short or medium term would put the country in a position to gradually return to the markets.

About 12,000 people, according to the police, gathered on Thursday afternoon in front of parliament to protest against the new austerity package, just a day after a general strike, marking a week of mobilisations and partial strikes in the public services.

The demonstration was mainly peaceful, although several anarchist groups threw Molotov cocktails at the statue of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament and clashed with the police.

The security forces initially managed to dissolve protesters with tear gas but later several other similar incidents took place in the areas close to Syntagma Square in central Athens.

–IANS

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