Greece Presents Austerity Plan

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Greece’s finance minister presented details of harsh spending cuts and tax hikes to a parliamentary committee on Friday, after tough negotiations with the country’s international creditors.

The measures are to be voted on in parliament next week in two bills that must pass if Greece is to receive a critical installment of its international bailout loans next month, in time to prevent a potentially disastrous default that could drag down European banks and affect other financially troubled European countries.

Thursday was a very unpleasant day for me, because I had to tell bitter truths, and we had to agree on very tough measures, measures which also include the element of injustice and the element of over taxation, “Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told the financial affairs committee.

He said he could not rule out having to impose even more measures during his tenure as finance minister, although he and his deputies would try to ensure that would not be necessary.

“We can’t keep coming back every so often and ask for corrective measures, but I won’t state that I will never introduce more measures while I am finance minister and am handling a crisis,” he said. “We … will make every humanly possible effort to execute the budget and the midterm programme without new measures. But the result depends on the state as a whole, the public administration, the whole market, the tax compliance of all citizens.”

The eur028 billion austerity bill and an additional implementation bill will be voted on by Thursday afternoon. Angered by measures that include higher taxes for those earning around the minimum wage, unions have called for a 48-hour general strike next Tuesday and Wednesday, during the parliamentary debate.

Greeks have also faced intermittent power cuts for days as workers at the country’s power company continue 48-hour rolling strikes. The company filed a suit in an Athens court Friday asking for the strike to be declared illegal — a move which, if approved, would force the employees back to work. The court said it would issue a final decision today, Associated Press reports.

The organization’s union objects to the company being privatized as part of an ambitious drive to raise euro 50 billion by selling state assets by 2015.

“We are not in a position at the moment to make the choices we would want to make,” Venizelos said in his speech in the parliamentary committee.

Despite receiving a euro 110 billion package of rescue loans from other European Union countries that use the euro and from the International Monetary Fund last year, Greece has found itself in need of more help as it struggles to meet revenue and cost-cutting targets in the midst of a recession.