€13.5bn cuts plan sparks week of strikes


Greece’s government presented a new austerity package to parliament yesterday as a week of strikes and protests kicked off over proposals that lawmakers must approve if the country is to secure more aid and stave off bankruptcy.

Parliament is expected to vote on Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras’s €13.5 billion ($17 billion) package of cuts and tax rises tomorrow, along with measures making it easier for firms to hire and fire workers.

Despite public exasperation at four years of belt-tightening that has helped wipe out a fifth of the economy and leave a quarter of Greeks jobless, the package – and a tough budget slated for a vote on Sunday – are expected to scrape through parliament.

Trade unions will launch a 48-hour strike tomorrow and plan marches in the centre of Athens. Journalists, doctors, transport workers and shopkeepers also planned stoppages.

Approval of the reforms and the passage of the 2013 budget are crucial to unlocking €31.5 billion from an IMF and EU bailout that has been on hold for months.

Without it, Greece will not be able to redeem a €5 billion treasury bill due on November 16th.

Protests will intensify today ratcheting up pressure on coalition deputies whose parties have slid in polls since a June election. – (Reuters)