Parliament approves tax breaks, pension bonus

Parliament approves tax breaks, pension bonus

Greek lawmakers on Wednesday approved tax breaks and bonuses for pensioners in the crisis-hit nation days before elections, rowing back some austerity mandated by international bailouts.

The package brought by the left-wing Syriza administration includes an annual payment for 2.5 million pensioners, a reduction in a sales tax on basic foodstuffs and a cut in tax rates on electricity and gas bills.

“After eight years of sacrifice a new era dawns, vindicating those difficult concessions made by the people of Greece,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament before the vote.

Greece, which required three international bailouts between 2010 and 2015 to stave off bankruptcy, emerged last August from economic adjustment programs overseen by its lenders.

It still needs to meet fiscal targets, including a primary budget surplus, which excludes interest payments on its debt, of 3.5 percent of annual economic output up to 2022.

Tsipras has said the handouts will not dislodge that target. Opposition parties have branded them a crude move by the leftist government to shore up its sagging popularity before the European parliament election on May 26.

The measures include a permanent yearly bonus for pensioners, whose incomes were slashed 13 times from 2010 to 2017. It also introduces staggered payments for dues to the state.

Value-added tax on restaurant bills as well as on basic foodstuffs from stock cubes and pasta to grain will drop to 13 from 24 percent.


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