Austerity Ekes Out Victory in Greece

Eurozone decision follows huge protests
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 8, 2012 5:26 AM CST
A protester shouts anti-government slogans during a demonstration outside the parliament in Athens, Wednesday Nov. 7, 2012.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
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(Newser) – In a 153 to 128 vote, Greek's three-party coalition government barely passed some $22 billion worth of new austerity measures in an effort to remain in the eurozone. Eighteen MPs voted "present" on the plan, with another abstaining. The vote on the measures, which include pension cuts and raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, came amid days of protesting, as some 100,000 demonstrators in Athens chanted, "Fight! They're drinking our blood!" Reuters reports. Lawmakers are set to vote Sunday on next year's budget, which would implement the new measures aimed at receiving some $40 billion in aid from foreign creditors—though that assistance isn't guaranteed, the New York Times notes.

These are the "last, last" cuts, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said, noting that "a lot of what we’re voting on today are measures we should have taken a long time ago." But two prime ministers before him pledged earlier cuts would be the "last," and the measures remain deeply controversial. Greek central bank workers have resigned in protest; parliamentary staffers warned they might quit as well. Many argue that the cuts won't fix the country's economy. "Telling a whole people that they have to commit collective suicide to save the debt is not a policy," says an opposition Syriza party MP. A London economist adds that officials "grossly underestimated the impact that fiscal austerity of this magnitude would have on the Greek economy ... additional austerity is going to compound that weakness." (Read more Greece stories.)

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