Parliament votes on ’09 budget

Lawmakers were expected late yesterday to vote on the 2009 budget, a plan likely to be revised in coming weeks due to the global crisis. The budget’s targeted annual economic growth of 2.7 percent for 2009 has been described by analysts as unrealistic, failing to take into account the downturn in international conditions. National Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis admitted in Parliament on Saturday that it would not be easy for the government to achieve its targets, which include lowering the budget deficit to 2 percent from 2.5 percent this year. «Global uncertainties are quite big. The European Commission intends to revise some of its forecasts again in January. We might have to do the same,» he said. The Commission, which expects Greece’s economy to grow at an annual pace of 2.5 percent next year, is likely to lower the forecast in a report scheduled for release on January 18. Some experts believe the economy may even shrink next year. Greece began to feel the pinch from the crisis in the third quarter, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth decelerating to 3.1 percent from 4 percent in 2007. Domestic demand has fallen, exports to EU partners are under pressure and the government now faces the prospect of higher debt repayments, as the gap between Greek 10-year bonds and benchmark German bunds hit record levels last week amid the country’s greatest civil unrest in decades.

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