Greece bundles bailout terms into emergency bill

AP News
Posted: Jan 14, 2013 4:10 PM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's parliament late Monday approved an emergency bill ratifying dozens of conditions set by bailout lenders, from tougher budget oversight rules to pay scales for spies.

Lawmakers voted 166-123 to in favor of the measures provisionally implemented by Cabinet decision late last year so that Greece could secure a massive new round of emergency loans.

The Democratic Left, a junior partner in the conservative-led coalition government, voted against measures to cut benefits for the long-term unemployed and pensioners under age 65, but the reforms were approved by a narrow majority.

Last month, European rescue lenders approved new installments worth €49.1 billion ($65.5 billion), with €34.3 billion ($45.76 billion) paid out days later and the rest to be transferred to Greece by March. But many of conditions were introduced provisionally and would have expired in 40 days without parliamentary approval.

Greece's economy is being kept afloat by international rescue loans from other eurozone members and the International Monetary Fund, which were granted on condition that the country impose spending cuts and other austerity measures. As Greece has imposed the measures, unemployment and poverty rates have shot up.

Included in the new bill are luxury taxes imposed on owners of large cars, pleasure boats, swimming pools and private jets. The Finance Ministry was also handed greater powers in controlling spending by local government and other government ministries.

Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras argued that the tougher rules would spare ordinary Greeks more austerity measures. "These measures are a concerted and concise framework ... of fiscal rules and methods to tidy up the state and its finances. This tidying up effort is the cornerstone of the necessary reorganization of the country and all its systems," he told parliament.

Opposition parties argued that the government was merely rubber-stamping demands by rescue lenders and rushing them through parliament to avoid a thorough debate and limit dissent among its own lawmakers.

"You come here and pass these (measures) like we're a factory, a washing machine of sin to mortgage the future of this country," said Panagiotis Lafazanis, parliamentary spokesman for the leftist main opposition party, Syriza. "These measures have no legitimacy and will fall flat."


AP Television's Theodora Tongas contributed.