Greek Parliament approves 'bailout' budget

Greek Parliament approves 'bailout' budget

POSTED: Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 10:30pm

UPDATED: Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 10:34pm

The Greek Parliament voted Sunday to approve the nation's 2013 budget that contains steep austerity cuts required for Greece to receive the next installment of a crucial economic bailout.

The cuts have provoked ire among Greeks furious about the effects of multiple rounds of belt-tightening, which have resulted in cuts to pensions and pay. Greece has seen its unemployment soar to more than 25%.

Even though the parliament approved the budget, a disagreement among its creditors may delay delivery of the financial aid.

Reports from Brussels and elsewhere suggest that the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund officials have been unable to reach an agreement on the release of the money.

The EU's finance ministers are set to meet Monday in Brussels, where the bailout funds for Greece, which is grappling with its fifth year of recession, is likely to top the agenda.

Passage of the austerity cuts was needed for the payout of the next international bailout installment of 31.5 billion euros (about $40.2 billion), which the Greek government desperately needs to stay in operation.

Without the aid, it has said, it would run out of money by mid-November.

More than one-fifth of the population could face poverty, defined as a family of four on an income of 13,842 euros (about $17,500) per year, state news agency AMNA has reported.

The budget contains reforms and fiscal measures worth 13.5 billion euros over the next two years. It will raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 and cut pensions on average between 5% and 15%.

Some salaries in the public sector will be reduced by about a third, and several bonuses will be scrapped. Some judges must take a 30% pay cut, for example.

The thorniest issue is that of labor law changes.

The austerity measures contained in the budget give the government the right to set the minimum wage as of April 2013. It also reduces the redundancy notice period -- the time given to workers to leave their jobs after being laid off -- and limits compensation for workers with more than 16 years of service, as well as allowing stores the right to ask employees to work more flexible hours.

The anger in the Greek population against the latest round of cuts, which come on top of many others, runs deep.

"The measures just never stop. Every time, politicians say they are going to be the last measures ... they are never the last," Melina Grigoriadou, a 50-year-old married businesswoman with two children, told CNN last week.

As lawmakers considered the austerity measures included in the draft budget, protesters in Athens threw Molotov cocktails and police fought back with tear gas outside the parliament as lawmakers prepared to vote.

As many as 70,000 people took part in demonstrations in Athens' central Syntagma Square, outside the parliament building, according to police estimates.

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