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Greek lawmakers pass new austerity bill to unlock bailout tranche
BY 2018-01-16 10:13:59

ATHENS, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Greek parliament approved on Monday a new austerity and reform package expected to clear the way for the disbursement of the next bailout tranche in the coming weeks.

The 1,500-page omnibus bill was approved with the backing of 154 for and 141 lawmakers voted against. A total of 295 lawmakers participated in the vote.

Addressing the plenary before the vote, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that Greece moved one step closer towards exiting the bailouts and the eight-year debt crisis.

"A long and difficult cycle closes. Essentially, this concludes the legislative part of the prior actions needed for the conclusion of the third review and everybody is aware that with the conclusion of the third review, we are one step before the end of the program and the final end of the memoranda," he told MPs.

"The difficulties are now behind us. Ahead of us there is a great effort to heal the wounds of the crisis. Ahead of us is a big wager, what we have described as the wager of the fair growth," he added.

The bill foresees among others new cuts on family benefits and restrictions regarding the declaration of strikes.

It also foresees the launch of e-auctions for foreclosed properties as of Feb. 21 as part of efforts to reduce the burden on non-performing loans on Greek banks under the terms of the third Greek bailout which ends in the summer.

Responding to the criticism of opposition parties and labor unions which staged a new round of strikes and protests on Monday, the Greek premier said that there was much disinformation and misunderstanding.

The reform will make the benefits system fairer, he pledged.

Under the new law, first-level labor unions will need the absolute majority of at least 50 percent of active members who pay dues before declaring a strike in the future. Currently, the percentage stands at only one third of union members.

The frequency of strikes, in particular in the past eight years, obstructs the recovery of the ailing economy, the bill's proponents said.

"The approval of the bill is expected to remove lingering uncertainties and further strengthen Greece's outlook for a stronger recovery in 2018," the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises said in a report released on Monday.

Main opposition conservative New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis doubted the exit from the crisis was near.

"Nothing is over in August. The supervision (of Greek economy by international creditors) will continue. This is the truth. It is obvious that you will assume more obligations using as an alibi the debt relief," Mitsotakis added.

MP Theodora Megalooikonomou, who had been elected with the Centrists Union and turned independent in 2017, voted in favor of the bill and asked to join the parliamentary group of the radical left SYRIZA party.

Tsipras accepted the request and now SYRIZA has 145 seats in parliament, while the Independent Greeks party, the junior partner, has nine seats.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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