x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Greek MPs approves austerity measures as rioting continues

Bill to cut spending and raise taxes by €28bn is passed during second day of rioting on the streets of Athens that left dozens of police and protesters injured.

Demonstrators set barricades afire to block the roads leading to the Greek Parliament yesterday during the second day of a 48-hour general strike, the first in the modern history of Greece. Orestis Panagiotou / EPA
Demonstrators set barricades afire to block the roads leading to the Greek Parliament yesterday during the second day of a 48-hour general strike, the first in the modern history of Greece. Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

ATHENS // Greek MPs approved a key austerity bill yesterday needed to avert default next month, despite a second day of rioting on the streets of Athens that left dozens of police and protesters injured.

The passage of the bill was a decisive step for the country to get the next batch of bailout loans from international creditors due from last year's financial rescue. Another bill has to be passed today for the government to secure the money.

The bill to cut spending and raise taxes by €28 billion (Dh148bn) over five years, and raise €50bn in privatisation over the same period of time, has provoked widespread outrage, coming after a year of deep cuts that have seen public sector salaries and pensions cut and unemployment rise to above 16 per cent.

While deputies voted, stun grenades echoed across the square outside the Parliament building and acrid clouds of tear gas hung in the streets. The violence continued sporadically after the vote and smoke was billowing from beneath the finance ministry.

Authorities and emergency services said 26 police and 15 protesters were injured and transferred to hospitals, while 29 people were detained, and nine arrested.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund have demanded both bills pass before it releases a €12bn instalment of the country's €110bn bailout fund.

Without it, Greece was facing defaulting on its debts by the middle of next month, potentially triggering a banking crisis, particularly in Europe, and turmoil in global markets.

"We must avoid the country's collapse with every effort," Prime Minister George Papandreou said before the vote. In the run-up to the vote, violence engulfed the square outside for the second day, while services across the country ground to a halt in the last day of a 48-hour general strike. Riot police fired volleys of tear gas at swarms of young men hurling rocks and other debris as well as setting fire to trash containers.