Greece approves budget for 2014

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IOL pic may7 greece national flag Reuters File photo: John Kolesidis

Athens/Brussels -

The Greek government survived a budget vote on Saturday night, hours after international creditors said they would not resume comprehensive negotiations until January, further delaying a fresh tranche of aid for the country.

After years of a shrinking Greek economy, the new budget is based on estimated growth next year of 0.6 percent. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called it a “historic day”.

The vote in parliament was 153-142, as the conservative-socialist ruling coalition survived to maintain its austerity policies.

The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund creditors said “technical discussions” were expected to continue next week in Athens

“We expect a full negotiating team to return to Athens in January, after the authorities have made further progress in implementation,” they said in a joint statement.

Greece needs the troika's approval to receive its next one-billion-euro bailout tranche. The troika has delayed several times the conclusion of its latest review into Greece's efforts to get its government finances and economy back on track, amid disagreements with authorities in Athens.

Diplomats said a key sticking point has been a projected fiscal gap next year that Greece officially estimates at about 500-million euros but others expect to be much higher.

The government has yet to deliver on a set of promised milestones for disbursement of the one-billion-euro tranche, originally expected in October.

The troika said its negotiating team would return in January “with the objective of reaching a staff-level agreement”.

The current Greek bailout programme is due to end in late 2014, but expectations are high that Greece will need yet another.

Since 2010, the country has received 250-billion euros in international loans, attached to strict austerity and reform requirements. The country is set to take over the European Union's rotating presidency on January 1. - Sapa-dpa


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