Greek parliament approves austere budget for 2016

Sat Dec 5, 2015 7:00pm EST
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek parliament approved a 2016 budget featuring sharp cuts in spending and some tax increases to satisfy the country's international lenders at a time of growing austerity fatigue.

The leftist-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is under pressure to deliver tangible benefits to its poorest citizens after having signed to a third rescue package from euro zone governments in August worth up to 86 billion euros.

The budget makes 5.7 billion euros ($6.2 billion) in public spending cuts including 1.8 billion from pensions and 500 million from defense. The savings are greater than this year's 1.5 billion euros. It also included tax increases of just over 2 billion euros.

It was passed by 153 votes to 145 with two members absent.

"This budget is a difficult task for a government that wants to leave its mark with social justice," Tsipras told lawmakers just before the vote.

He stressed that for the first time in five years, spending on hospitals, social welfare and job creation was being increased modestly within the bailout's constraints.

Tsipras said that was possible because his government had secured greater fiscal space by reducing its primary budget surplus target before debt service to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product in tough negotiations with the creditors.

The budget will have a deficit of 2.1 percent of GDP next year compared with 0.2 percent this year.   Continued...

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session before a budget vote in Athens, Greece, December 6, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis