PM approves austerity package, Stournaras to brief coalition leaders

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has approved a package of 11.5 billion euros in spending cuts presented to him by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday evening.

Stournaras is due to meet the other two coalition partners, PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis, on Wednesday to discuss the reductions, as well as 2 billion euros worth of new tax measures.

The government had fallen short in its discussions with the troika last week after inspectors rejected some 2 billion euros of reductions presented by the Greek side.

An agreement among coalition leaders would pave the way for the troika to return to Athens in order to conclude an agreement on the latest package, needed to secure the release of further bailout funding.

The package contains major cuts to public sector wages, pensions and benefits. It also includes an increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67. It does not, however, propose immediate mass sackings in the civil service, relying instead on retirements and limits on hirings to reduce numbers.

The tax measures include the scrapping of the tax-free threshold for self-employed and freelances, who notoriously declare much lower earnings than salaried professionals and are considered a major source of tax evasion.

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