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Greek Parliament approves budget for 2014

The Greek Parliament early on Sunday voted a budget for 2014 into law with 153 MPs in the 300-seat House voting in favor despite reservations among many in the coalition to backing further austerity.

The budget was backed by all but one of the coalition's 154 MPs -- Aris Spiliotopoulos of conservative New Democracy was absent -- with 142 MPs voting against the bill and one present.

Speaking before the vote, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that economic recovery was in sight, referring to a primary surplus predicted in the budget, and accused the leftist opposition SYRIZA of undermining the government's efforts toward recovery. "For the first time after many years, we will not need to borrow for our needs," Samaras said, adding that unemployment was set to drop from next year. The premier even quoted the late Nelson Mandela toward the end of his speech, declaring, "It always seems impossible until it's done."

Earlier leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said that approving the blueprint was the "road to the continuation of destruction for Greece" and said that it would not be revised by Greece's troika of foreign lenders but by SYRIZA which would come to power and "get rid of the troika." He said a writedown to Greece's debt was the only solution.

In his speech Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said SYRIZA's alternative economic plan -- which would involve the nationalization of Greek banks -- was a "nightmare scenario."

The budget, which foresees a 0.6 percent growth rate for next year and sets out 5.6 billion euros in spending cuts and projected tax revenue, received the backing of coalition MPs though many indicated, over several days of debate in Parliament, that they would not lend the same support to other reforms in the works, chiefly a controversial unified property tax which is to be submitted in Parliament on Tuesday.

However, the budget still lacks the approval of Greece's troika of foreign creditors, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, who left Athens last month after failing to reach an agreement with government officials on reforms and on a fiscal gap for next year. EC spokesman Simon O'Connor said in a Twitter posting on Saturday night that "a full negotiating team" would return to Athens in January once the government has made further progress in implementing reforms. "Technical discussions" would continue next week," he said.

ekathimerini.com , Saturday December 7, 2013 (23:39)  
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