Bailout gets rough welcome in Greece

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Greece’s left-wing gov­ern­ment launched a fran­tic 24-hour ef­fort late Tues­day to push more aus­ter­ity mea­sures through par­lia­ment and meet de­mands from Euro­pean cred­i­tors as it faced down mount­ing anger at home.

The belt-tight­en­ing mea­sures, which in­clude higher sales tax rates on ev­ery­thing from con­doms to race horses, were agreed upon with eu­ro­zone lead­ers to pre­vent the Greek econ­omy from col­laps­ing, and as part of planned third bailout worth 85 bil­lion eu­ros ($93 bil­lion).

It means re­ces­sion-hit Greeks will have to pay more for most goods and ser­vices by the end of the week.

Unions and trade as­so­ci­a­tions rep­re­sent­ing civil ser­vants, mu­nic­i­pal work­ers, phar­macy own­ers and oth­ers called or ex­tended strikes to co­in­cide with Wed­nes­day’s vote in par­lia­ment. Hard-lin­ers in Prime Min­is­ter Tsipras’ own Syriza party were in open re­volt.

Energy Min­is­ter Pana­gi­o­tis Lafaza­nis said lead eu­ro­zone len­der Ger­many and its al­lies had acted like “fi­nan­cial as­sas­sins” by forc­ing the deal on Athens, and urged Tsipras to re­ject it.

“The deal is un­ac­cept­able,” Lafaza­nis said in a state­ment. “It may pass through par­lia­ment ... but the peo­ple will never ac­cept it and will be united in their fight against it.”

Pro-Euro­pean op­po­si­tion par­ties have pledged sup­port for the bailout bills in par­lia­ment, but Tsipras could ef­fec­tively lose his ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, weak­en­ing his abil­ity to push through mea­sures that he had him­self ve­he­mently op­posed un­til a few weeks ago.

Tsipras’ coali­tion part­ner, De­fence Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos, also bit­terly de­nounced the new deal.

“There was a coup. A coup in the heart of Europe,” said Kam­menos, who heads the right-wing In­de­pen­dent Greeks party.

“They want the gov­ern­ment to fall and re­place it with one not elected by Greek peo­ple.”

The gov­ern­ment holds 162 seats in Greece’s 300-mem­ber Par­lia­ment, and more than 30 of Syriza’s own law­mak­ers have pub­licly voiced ob­jec­tions.

Athens was forced to ac­cept harsh terms to re­main in the euro af­ter de­fault­ing on its debts to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and clos­ing banks to pre­vent a de­posit run. On Mon­day, it must re­pay 4.2 bil­lion eu­ros ($4.6 bil­lion) to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank. It is also in ar­rears on 2 bil­lion eu­ros to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

It will take an es­ti­mated four weeks for Greece to ac­cess the new bailout loans, leav­ing EU fi­nance min­is­ters scram­bling to find ways to get Athens some of the money sooner.

The month­s­long stand­off be- tween Greece and its cred­i­tors has taken a heavy toll on an econ­omy that started the year with a 2.9 per cent growth forecast.

A na­tional small busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion said Tues­day that the new aus­ter­ity mea­sures were likely to cause the econ­omy to shrink for a sev­enth year, with a 3.5 per cent drop in out­put. De­spite the bleak fore­casts, some Greeks ap­peared to take the latest tur­moil in stride, say­ing the mea­sures Greece will have to pass are harsh but that the al­ter­na­tive would have been worse.

“We aren’t in a good po­si­tion within the Euro­pean Union un­der the cur­rent mea­sures and un­der this present sit­u­a­tion,” said Kostas Plafoutzis, an Athens mer­chant.

AP PHOTO

De­mon­stra­tors gather near the Greek Par­lia­ment dur­ing a rally against the gov­ern­ment's agree­ment with its cred­i­tors in Athens Tues­day.

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