Greek MPs approve new round of measures to unlock bailout tranche

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 16, 2015
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Greek MPs (members of the parliament) on Tuesday approved the latest round of prior actions requested by the country's international creditors in order to unlock the next bailout tranche in the coming days.

The bill, containing 13 key policies agreed on in talks with lenders last week, passed with 153 votes of the ruling Left-led coalition in the 300-member strong chamber, while 138 deputies voted against.

The new set of austerity and reform measures relate to the creation of a new privatization fund that will be supervised by Greek and foreign officials, and to the partial privatization of the power grid operator ADMIE.

The bill also foresees the framework for a new unified payroll structure for all civil servants and the context for the management of non-performing loans as of January 2016.

The debate ahead of the vote was heated. Opposition parties questioned whether these policies would help the ailing economy return to stability and growth after seven years of recession.

Critics of the draft bill argued that the new package of measures which Athens hopes will unlock one billion euros in bailout aid by the weekend, will most likely lead to the closure of more enterprises, more joblessness, and foreclosures of homes.

Addressing parliament, cabinet ministers said the implementation of the tough policies was the only way to avert the worse under the current circumstances.

The ruling SYRIZA party which came into power last January had been an ardent critic of the austerity drive launched to address the debt crisis in 2010 under bailout agreements.

In July, the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to the third Greek bailout to avert a looming financial meltdown and possible Grexit.

A few hours before Tuesday's vote, the government also promoted a "parallel" program pledging measures to support the most vulnerable groups of society.

Opposition parties and labor unions remained skeptical. As deputies were debating the bill in the assembly, outside, two umbrella unions representing Greek public servants and private sector employees were protesting the new wave of salary cuts and the "forthcoming tsunami of home auctions," as banners read.

The government assured there would be no new salary cuts for civil servants under the new payroll system, but incentives to boost productivity and primary homes would be excluded from foreclosures.

Under the new law, non-performing loans of major enterprises currently held by Greek banks would be sold to distress funds, but mortgages for main residences and business loans of small and medium-sized enterprises would be excluded until mid-February. Endit

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