Greeks go on strike be­fore bud­get vote

The Pak Banker - - International -

ATHENS: Greek unions called a gen­eral strike on Wed­nes­day and Athens was par­a­lyzed by a 24-hour pub­lic trans­port stop­page in protest against the govern­ment's 2011 bud­get, set to pass later as part of an EU/IMF bailout.

The bud­get, meant to help stem a debt cri­sis that has shaken the euro zone, in­cludes fur­ther tax hikes and wage cuts in state-run en­ter­prises, es­pe­cially in pub­lic trans­port.

Fitch said on Tues­day it may cut Greece's credit rat­ing next month to junk as both other ma­jor rat­ing agen­cies have done.

"Even though this news was ex­pected, it will go down badly with the mar­kets, there is wide­spread fear about down­grades com­ing," said Ioanna Te­lioudi, an­a­lyst at HSBC in Athens. Greece's main pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor la­bor unions have called a 3-hour strike from 1000 to 1300 GMT (5 to 8 a.m. ET) in Athens. Thou­sands are ex­pected to rally out­side par­lia­ment.

Athens bus and sub­way driv­ers have been hold­ing on and off strikes for two weeks, keep­ing Christ­mas shop­pers from the city cen­ter, adding to the strain of re­ces­sion-hit re­tail­ers.

The govern­ment threat­ened on Wed­nes­day to break the pub­lic trans­port strikes, in­vok­ing emer­gency leg­is­la­tion it used ear­lier this year to dis­solve La­bor ac­tion by truck driv­ers and other trans­port work­ers.

"Ev­ery­one has to show re­spon­si­bil­ity ... the state has all the pow­ers it needs to pro­tect the pub­lic in­ter­est," govern­ment spokesman Ge­orge Pe­talo­tis said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view.

An­a­lysts have warned the ad­di­tional mea­sures will hurt the econ­omy even more with­out pro­vid­ing guar­an­tees that the coun­try will avoid a debt re­struc­tur­ing to cope with bal­loon­ing debt.

The govern­ment has a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity of 156 seats out of 300 in par­lia­ment and the bud­get is ex­pected to be ap­proved de­spite grow­ing dis­con­tent among the rul­ing PASOK party ranks. -Reuters

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