Greek lawmakers approved the country’s first budget in decades forecasting almost no deficit, as euro-area finance ministers prepare to meet in Brussels to discuss a potential extension to Greece’s bailout program.
Of the 300-seat parliament, 290 lawmakers voted on the plan yesterday. Those in favor numbered 155; 134 voted against, and one expressed no view, according to results read out by the speaker, Evangelos Meimarakis.
“We are exiting the era when bond markets were closed to us and we needed bailout loans to survive,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told lawmakers before the vote. “Greece is now becoming a gateway for trade between Europe and the Far East.”
The plan sees 2.9 percent growth in gross domestic product by 2015, one of the fastest growth rates in the euro area, as Greece is on track to emerge this year from the longest and steepest recession in more than half a century. The government will post a budget surplus before interest payments equal to 3 percent of GDP. While general government debt is projected to fall to 171.4 percent of GDP from 177.7 percent this year, it will remain the highest in the European Union.
A few hundred protesters gathered under the rainy skies of Athens, outside the Greek parliament, calling for an end to austerity, while lawmakers were debating the budget.
“The government doesn’t have right to commit the country” anti-bailout opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras said yesterday evening, before the midnight vote, adding that decisions taken won’t bind his party.