Greece OKs bitter 2013 budget to access new lifeline
ATHENS - The Associated Press
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and parliamentarians applaud after a vote for the 2013 budget.REUTERS photoGreek lawmakers approved the country’s 2013 austerity budget early yesterday, an essential step in Greece’s efforts to persuade its international creditors to unblock a vital rescue loan installment without which the country will go bankrupt.
The budget passed by a 167-128 vote in the 300-member Parliament. It came days after a separate bill of deep spending cuts and tax hikes for the next two years squeaked through with a narrow majority following severe disagreements among the three parties in the governing coalition, The Asociated Press reported.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged that the spending cuts will be the last Greeks have to endure.
“Just four days ago, we voted the most sweeping reforms ever in Greece,” he said. “The sacrifices (in the earlier bill and the budget) will be the last. Provided, of course, we implement all we have legislated. “
“Greece has done what it was asked to do and now is the time for the creditors to make good on their commitments,” he stressed.
No hopes for new debts
Athens says that with the passage of the two bills, the next loan installment, worth 31.5 billion euros, should be disbursed.
However, the eurozone would not authorize more money for Greece yesterday, despite the country approving a tough 2013 budget, because there is still no agreement on how to make its debts sustainable, Reuters said.
The zone’s finance ministers, who were meeting in Brussels when the Daily News went to print yesterday evening, would not release the money, a variety of officials have said. “I am impressed by Greece’s recent performance. Greece is on track to meet its commitments step by step,” the chairman of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, told reporters on arrival for the meeting.
“There won’t be any definitive decisions today [yesterday], but I think the general feeling is that we would like the next disbursement to done in the most efficient way possible,” he said.
Technical documents only
Germany’s finance ministry said also yesterday that only extracts of a key document on Greece were available, as eurozone ministers prepared to debate whether to hand a lifeline to the debt-wracked nation, Agence France-Presse reported. Marianne Kothe, a spokeswoman for Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, told a regular government news conference that only “early technical documents” from a long-awaited report from Greece’s international creditors were on the table. “We need to evaluate these,” she said.
Finance ministers from the 17-nation eurozone were meeting in Brussels later yesterday, with Greece high on the agenda. However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has indicated it is unlikely that the ministers will decide on the disbursement at that meeting.
“We all ... want to help Greece, but we won’t be put under pressure,” Schaeuble told the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Schaeuble said the so-called troika of debt inspectors likely will not deliver their report on Greece’s reform program by yesterday. The creditors also want to see what the debt inspectors have to say about Greece’s debt sustainability.
But speaking minutes before the vote, Samaras pledged the bailout funds would be disbursed “on time.”
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras also stressed the precariousness of Greece’s cash reserves, with the treasury bills due on Nov. 9.
“Without the help of the European Central Bank, the refunding of these treasury bills from the banking system will lead the private sector to complete suffocation,” Stournaras said.