Sunday, February 12, 2012

World Waits For Greek Lawmaker Decision On Bailout Requirments

Greek lawmakers are poised to begin debate on legislation introducing the severe austerity measures necessary for the country to secure a €130 billion bailout ($171.6-billion) and stave off bankruptcy.

The legislation will also approve a bond-swapping deal with private creditors that will allow Greece to shave off at least €100 billion of its €360 billion debt.

Unions have called for a large protest outside Parliament.

The two parties backing the coalition government have 236 deputies in the 300-member parliament. But at least 13 conservative and seven socialist lawmakers have declared they will vote against, defying their leaders' threats of sanctions.

Early Sunday, a conservative lawmaker resigned, joining three socialists who did the same earlier this week.

All have been replaced.

PM defends austerity measures

On Saturday, Greek leaders urged lawmakers to pass more painful spending cuts or face a "catastrophe" that would leave residents subsisting on food stamps and the country wallowing in bankruptcy.

In a televised address, on the eve of the vote, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos defended the austerity measures. Papademos and the other party leaders backing Greece's coalition government — socialist George Papandreou and conservative Antonis Samaras, as well as socialist Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos — used stark images of a country under bankruptcy to convince the public and members of Parliament to support the austerity measures.

"The deal will ensure our country's future inside the euro," Papademos said. "A bankruptcy would lead to uncontrollable economic chaos and social explosion."

He added that a bankruptcy would lead to Greeks losing their savings, the state being unable to pay salaries and pensions, and shortages in import items such as medicines, fuel and machinery.

Dissidents unconvinced

Several dissident lawmakers were unconvinced. At least 13 conservative deputies and seven socialists declared they would not vote and two more socialist deputies resigned, bringing the total to three.

Their replacements will be seated Sunday.

The austerity measures in the bailout deal, including the layoffs of 15,000 workers and a 22 per cent drop in the minimum wage and pension cuts, have set off street protests and led to the resignations of half a dozen Cabinet officials.

Debt-stricken Greece does not have the money to cover a €14.5 billion bond ($19.1 billion) repayment on March 20, and must reach a vital debt-relief deal with private bond investors before then. The country's woes have threatened its future in the 17-country zone that uses the euro currency.

The European Union is waiting to see Greece finally act on their commitments.

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