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Greek parliament to approve new cuts for 2017

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows people attending a protest in Athens, Greece, to condemn fresh pay cuts and tax hikes. (Photo by AFP)

Greece's parliament is to approve a new set of cuts and tax hikes for next year as Athens struggles to secure fresh funds from international creditors.

The parliament, dominated by lawmakers from the leftist government, is expected to ratify a budget bill later on Saturday that is expected to save over $6.7 billion for the country in 2017.

Greek lawmakers will vote on imposition of extra taxes on cars, fixed telephone service, pay TV, fuel, tobacco, coffee, beer and other items. If the measure is approved, the government will be allowed to cut public spending on salaries and pensions.

Greece hopes the cuts could be satisfactory enough for the European Union (EU) institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give Athens the funds it desperately needs to shore up its debt-stricken economy.

The cuts are also meant to facilitate Greece’s return to debt markets by early 2018. That would only be the case if the European Central Bank opens Greece’s access to its quantitative easing (QE), an asset purchase program which currently excludes Athens.

The new budget is highly likely to anger the public and critics of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who came to power in early 2015 on a platform of opposing EU austerity and increasing pensions and salaries. However, he has vowed that 2018 will be the end of the economic pressures for the Greeks and the public would feel the result of current painful measures beyond that time.

Last week, Eurozone lenders approved a series of short-term relief measures to help Greece repay its huge public debt, which will reach 315 billion euros this year. However, the EU and IMF creditors should conclude a final audit of Greece’s reform next year to allow the country to enjoy fresh bailout funds.

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