NEWS

Greek MPs approve multi-bill, paving way for lenders to release more loans

TAGS: Politics, Economy, Euro

Greek MPs approved on Sunday night a multi-bill containing a range of measures, including another 1.8 billion euros in tax hikes and the framework for a vast new privatization fund, paving the way for the Eurogroup to release more loans to Athens.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw 152 of his 153 MPs back the controversial package of legislation, meaning the government’s slim parliamentary majority was not put at risk.

Vassiliki Katrivanou voted for the legislation “in principle” but against the articles regarding the privatization fund and an automatic mechanism applying fiscal cuts if the primary surplus target is not met.

Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to decide whether Greece has done enough to complete the first review of its latest bailout program. If the green light is given, Athens is set to receive a minimum of 5.7 billion euros in fresh funding. However, there are still questions regarding whether the eurozone creditors and the International Monetary Fund will agree on how to reduce Greece’s debt or whether this will prove an obstacle to the next disbursement.

Back in Athens, the coalition parties traded accusations with the opposition in two days of stormy debate in Parliament’s full assembly.

Tsipras rejected the idea that the government will not last much longer after New Democracy MP Dimitris Stamatis suggested that there would be snap elections in spring next year. The prime minister insisted that the coalition will see out its full four-year term and that elections would take place in September 2019.

The prime minister criticized the opposition for not supporting the measures in the multi-bill despite earlier suggestions that New Democracy, at least, would vote for the provisions regarding the privatization fund and the sale of NPLs.

“What we are voting on is completely within the framework of the [bailout] deal we agreed [with Greece’s lenders] last August,” said Tsipras.

Earlier, Mitsotakis had accused the government of ceding Greece’s sovereignty by giving the country’s creditors a key say in the privatizations that will take place, not setting a limit on the sales and giving the new fund a lifespan of 99 years.

“Today is a day of shame for the Greek Parliament,” said the conservative leader in relation to the fund.

Mitsotakis also outlined his proposal for the economy, saying he would ask the institutions to lower the mid-term fiscal target to 2 percent of gross domestic product and would aim to fuel business activity through a series of tax hikes that would create growth of 4 percent of GDP.

Ahead of the vote, the government said it would postpone until the end of the year plans to prevent any pay increases for civil servants on the so-called “special” pay scale, including policemen and military personnel. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the government would find equivalent measures to replace the savings of nearly 120 million euros that the pay freeze would bring.

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