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Fiscal plan for 2015-18 approved by MPs as New Democracy, SYRIZA cross swords

Parliament passed the government’s 2015-18 Medium Term Fiscal Strategy (MTFS) on Friday as New Democracy and SYRIZA ratcheted up the intensity of their pre-election war of words.

With four coalition MPs absent, the government relied on the support of two independent MPs, Andreas Loverdos and Christos Aidonis, to reach 150 votes. A total of 119 lawmakers voted against it. The coalition only needed a majority of the 269 MPs who voted on Friday rather than all 300 who sit in Parliament. Sources said that the government was encouraged by the fact that Loverdos and Aidonis, both former PASOK members, supported the fiscal plan.

The MTFS sees a primary surplus of 4.19 billion euros, or 2.3 percent of gross domestic product, this year. Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to peak at 175.1 percent for 2014. Around 900 million euros is to be cut from spending on public sector salaries by the end of 2016, while structural interventions are seen as bringing in or saving close to 1 billion euros. The strategy approved by Parliament does not foresee a funding gap emerging in the next few years.

During the debate ahead of the vote, SYRIZA argued that the MTFS was the harbinger of further austerity. “This death sentence simply makes the memorandums permanent: spending cuts, tax hikes, reductions of pensions and wages and privatization of everything with processes that lack transparency,” said leftist leader Alexis Tsipras.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras hit back at the opposition leader. “You know you are harming the country,” he said to Tsipras. “What you have said and continue to say can only be interpreted as a joke, I am afraid to say.”

Proceedings became even more heated when SYRIZA MP Stathis Panagoulis, the brother of late leftist politician and anti-junta rebel Alekos Panagoulis, labeled himself a “terrorist.” “Yes, I, who was in jail during the junta, am a terrorist, Mr [Antonis] Samaras,” Panagoulis told the prime minister. “I will try to terrorize you as much as I can. Those who signed the memorandums and the medium-term fiscal strategies will face trial in a special court.”

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou issued a statement calling for SYRIZA to oust Panagoulis.

ekathimerini.com , Friday May 9, 2014 (20:11)  
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