NEWS

MPs show discontent in debate on omnibus bill

TAGS: Economy, Politics

There was a rambunctious atmosphere in Parliament on Thursday as MPs began debating the vast collection of draft legislation submitted by the government late on Wednesday, ahead of Sunday’s vote, which the coalition hopes will lead to the completion of the drawn-out review of the Greek bailout program.

There was uproar in the economic affairs committee as lawmakers began debating the multi-bill, which stretched to more than 700 pages (over 4,000 if the appendices are included).

The SYRIZA MP chairing the committee, Makis Balaouras, found himself under constant attack from his colleagues.

Apart from the anger caused by the amount of legislation that parliamentarians have to get through in the next few days, the content of the multi-bill, which contains a series of tax increases aiming to raise 1.8 billion euros, also prompted criticism.

The provisions relating to the creation of a new privatization agency, which will be known as the Hellenic Company of Assets and Participations, proved among the most contentious.

It was revealed that apart from state assets, public companies, such as utilities and transport firms, would be transferred to the fund.

The new body will operate completely independently of the government. It will be run by a five-member advisory council that will be appointed by the Greek finance minister, the European Commission and the European Stability Mechanism.

For any board decision to be ratified, it will have to have the support of at least four members.

A long list of public companies, including the EYDAP water company and the Public Power Corporation, that would be transferred to the fund accompanied the omnibus bill but this was trimmed down after angry reactions from some MPs.

However, the public organizations not included at this stage will be added at a later date. Their inclusion in the fund does not necessarily mean they will be privatized.

Despite earlier rumors that it might vote for the legislation regarding the privatization fund, as well as the sale of nonperforming loans, the indications on Thursday were that New Democracy will vote against the entire multi-bill.

Sources said that the conservatives will vote for legislation that establishes an independent revenues agency, the privatizations that are already in the pipeline, such as the deal for 14 regional airports, and three provisions relating to the reduction of taxes and spending.

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