Greek Parliament Approves Austerity Plan
The Greek Parliament finally consented to Prime Minister George Papandreou's package of austerity measures - the only factor standing in the way of Greece receiving the $17 billion from the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund that it needed to survive the summer without defaulting. The 155 to 138 vote approved tax increases, wage cuts, and the privatization of 50 billion euros, or about $72 billion, in state assets. However, many are concerned that the measure will not be enough, but a second bailout is in the works for the July 3rd meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels. The bill was met with outrage as thousands of residents protested in the streets, turning violent at some points and prompting the police to release tear gas (Donadio).
If Parliament failed to approve these measures, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund vowed to withhold the next installment of funds from the financial bailout that began last year. Without the austerity plan, Greece faced a deepened recession, heightened unemployment, and crumbling living standards. In their current state, Greece is unable to raise money in the private market and will not be able to pay its bills without the loan (Chu).
"The choice is simple: Either we press ahead with the road of change, a road that is difficult, or we choose catastrophe," said Papandreou to the Parliament just before the vote. "We choose the first. We ask you to give Greece a historic opportunity to move ahead and change" (Chu).
Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos addressed Parliament, saying, "Voting for these measures, regardless of any reservations, is an important, brave act of political responsibility" (Chu).
The stock markets fluctuated greatly. Before the vote was passed, the stock markets across Europe and much of Asia improved in the hopes that the measure would be approved. Afterwards, they