Parliament approves ‘parallel program’ bill

Parliament approves ‘parallel program’ bill

Greek Parliament on Saturday approved a bill providing health insurance to vulnerable citizens and offering municipality jobs for the unemployed as the SYRIZA-led government tries to mitigate the impact of bailout austerity measures on the poor.

The bill was supported by coalition partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks. Conservative opposition New Democracy, Golden Dawn and the Union of Centrists voted against, while PASOK, the communist KKE party and To Potami voted “present.”

The package of social justice measures, also known as the “parallel program,” is meant to appease critics who say the reforms Parliament was forced to adopt under Greece's third bailout program are too tough.

Thousands of Greeks took to the streets in February to protest a planned pension reform which increases social security contributions and phases out benefits for low income pensioners.

The plan affects mainly self-employed professionals and farmers, who have been blockading roads and border crossings in protest for weeks.

The government was forced to withdraw an initial “humanitarian crisis” bill from parliament in December, after its international lenders, also known in Athens as the EU/IMF quartet, threatened to withhold bailout funds in protest at not having been properly consulted.

Parliament approved parts of that bill by decree the following months and the remainder was approved on Saturday. Government officials have said foreign creditors have agreed to the bill in line with a procedure agreed under the bailout. [Reuters, Kathimerini]

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