Business, Economics and Jobs

Greek austerity bill approved by parliament despite protests


Journalists march during a demonstration as part of a 24-hour media blackout of print, broadcast and electronic media on November 5, 2012 in Athens, as a banner calling for a 48-hour general strike on November 6 and 7, 2012 is seen at left. Public transport and media workers opened a week of strikes in Greece on November 5, contesting fresh austerity measures needed for a lifeline from creditors which are due to be presented by the government to parliament.



Greece's three-party coalition government narrowly passed an austerity package of spending cuts and tax hikes in a late-night vote today, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters:

The bill covering the bulk of 13.5 billion euros' ($17.2 billion) worth of belt-tightening measures is a precursor to the 2013 budget law, which the government is expected to push through on Sunday.

Greece must take these two steps in order to receive the next EUR 31.5 billion installment of its EUR 173 billion bailout from the European Union and the IMF, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The issue is to keep the country in the euro,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in parliament, according to Bloomberg News. “This bill is here to ensure that all Greeks participate in the effort to save the country.”

Reuters reported that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy Party and its Socialist PASOK allies gathered 153 votes out of 300 to pass the bill; the Democratic Left party abstained.

Almost 100,000 Greeks protested outside of the parliament building in Athens today while lawmakers debated the austerity package, Reuters reported.

The protest coincided with the second day of a 48-hour strike which shut down hospitals, banks, pharmacies, government services, taxis, buses and trains, Bloomberg News reported.

More from GlobalPost: Greeks strike over austerity cuts before vote

The demonstration turned violent when some protesters tried to break through a barrier and rush into parliament, Reuters reported. Riot police pushed them back using teargas, stun grenades and water cannons.

Protesters responded by throwing molotov cocktails and rocks at the police, setting off small fires around the square and streets near the government building, Reuters reported.

"These measures are killing us little by little and lawmakers in there don't give a damn,” Maria Aliferopoulou, a 52-year-old mother of two living on 1,000 euros a month, told Reuters. “They are rich, they have everything and we have nothing and are fighting for crumbs, for survival."