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Greek Coalition Passes 2016 Budget in Parliament Amid Tension

greek_parliamentThe SYRIZA-ANEL coalition managed to pass the 2016 budget in parliament with 153-145, with two lawmakers absent in the 300-member Parliament, as all opposition parties voted against.
The vote went as expected, since last week’s meeting of party leaders ended with opposition parties stating that they are against the austerity measures included in the budget. Only SYRIZA and ANEL lawmakers voted in favor of the budget.
The vote on a budget in most cases is also a vote of confidence for a government. In that respect, Alexis Tsipras did not get the vote of confidence he needed and continues on a very slim majority that will be tested again when the thorny issues of security fund reforms and farmers taxation are tabled in parliament.
The government forecasts zero economic growth this year and a contraction of 0.7 percent in 2016. Earlier, it had predicted declines of 2.3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
Despite spending cuts of around 2 billion euros ($2.18 billion) and a similar amount in tax hikes, debt is forecast to grow to 327.6 billion euros ($356 billion), or 187.8 percent of gross domestic product, from 180.2 percent in 2015.
The Greek prime minister defended the budget saying that for the first time since the economic crisis hit Greece priority is given to social spending. In his speech Tsipras who came to power in January promising to defend Greeks from EU-imposed cuts and was then re-elected in September described the budget’s passage as a “difficult exercise.”
“Behind the numbers anybody can see the agonizing effort to support the working classes,” he said Sunday, referring to monthly pension cuts.
The opposition right-wing New Democracy party’s interim leader Yiannis Plakiotakis described the budget as “socially unfair” and “anti-growth.”
“They are getting ready to turn the pensions into tips,” he quipped bitterly.
Prior to the prime minister’s speech, New Democracy’s Vangelis Meimarakis attacked the government saying that voting in favor of the budget means voting in favor of pension cuts and higher taxes that Greek people are unable to pay. He accused Tsipras for “stealing” people’s votes by promising lower taxes and higher pensions and now asking for higher taxes and lower pensions.

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