Put to the test amid intense pressure from its European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors, the Hellenic Parliament has approved a series of austerity measures intended to appease its financial trustees and gain the release of the next round of aid for Greece’s faltering economy.
Led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza Party, the measure passed with 153 votes in an assembly of 300 deputies.
“We are determined to make Greece stand on its own two feet at any cost,” Tsipras said, addressing deputies.
The bill passed ahead of Monday’s scheduled meeting with eurozone ministers and IMF representatives to discuss debt-relief initiatives in Brussels.
Facing a staggering debt load of 180 percent above Greece’s GDP, the bills passed Sunday are estimated to be worth savings in excess of €5.4 billion (£4.27 billion).
Included in the proposal: An increase in taxes for the wealthy, establishment of a national pension of €384 per month, the equivalent of £302 and $437, the roll back of an assistance payment to poorer pensioners, and the lowering of tax-free thresholds.
Greeks will also experience a sharp increase in a Value Added Tax on fuel and an increase on electronic cigarettes and coffee slated to begin in January 2017.
European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was pleased with the outcome of Sunday’s vote:
“We are now at the time of the first review of the program (to aid Greece) and the objectives have been basically achieved.”
Not all Greeks welcomed the vote with enthusiasm: Outside parliament, several thousand anti-austerity protesters clashed with police demonstrating against the most recent round of austerity measures.
Largely led by public unions who declare they are unable to withstand further cuts, protesters hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and bricks at police.
[The Guardian] [BBC] [RT] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis]