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Greek Parliament Agrees on Bailout Deal

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (L) speaks with newly appointed Finance minister Philippos Sachinidis in Athens on March 21, 2012.
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (L) speaks with newly appointed Finance minister Philippos Sachinidis in Athens on March 21, 2012.

Greece's Parliament early Wednesday approved a new international bailout deal worth $170 billion. Analysts warn that the road ahead for Greece will be a tough one.

The loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will be disbursed over the next few years.

Greek health workers are disrupting state hospital services in a renewed protest against the government's austerity measures and delays in receiving their paychecks.

Doctors and staff walked off the job for several hours Wednesday and engaged in a work slowdown. They demanded the government pay them for their overtime work from the last four months.

The health care workers also protested spending cuts the government has imposed in order to secure a new international bailout and debt relief.

They are dependent on major cuts in spending, including lowering the minimum wage, pensions and benefits. Authorities are also to make severe cuts to the country's health service.

Lawmakers voted 213 out of 300 in favor of the new deal.

Spiros Economides from the London School of Economics says lawmakers had little alternative but to press forward with the agreement.

But he says increased austerity will be difficult in a country that is already suffering. "You see rising unemployment across the board. There are of course greater degrees of poverty, especially in urban areas, and the middle class is the one that is suffering the most because of a pinch in both its salary and its pension. And so there is a great degree of economic dislocation in Greece," he said.

On Wednesday, hospital staff in the greater Athens area staged protests against cuts and pay delays, walking off the job for several hours.

Economides says austerity must be coupled with measures that will spur growth in Greece. Otherwise, he says, the structural problems in the Greek economy will not be overcome.  "I think what Greece is crying out for, and I think what really needs to be taken very seriously in the next six months, is not only the austerity measures but what other measures can be put in place to help the Greek economy to develop, to help it to become more competitive, to get liquidity into the market, to get business growing, to actually get some activity into the Greek economy," he said.

Jane Foley, a senior currency strategist in London at Rabobank International, says the markets are not convinced that, even with this second bailout, the Greek economy will be able to overcome its woes.

There is some speculation, she says, that a third bailout will be needed in 2013. "There is also the possibility that if Greece continues to fail to meet its targets that the eurozone authorities may tire of this behavior, and there is some speculation still that Greece may ultimately find itself out of the eurozone system," she said.

But she says the bailout is important for Europe. By providing funds to Greece, the European Central Bank has helped other European economies. "The ECB has certainly been very successful in calming the tensions in the eurozone over the past few months, that of course with providing huge amounts of liquidity. Certainly the debt auctions of countries like Spain and Italy have been far more successful this year because of the huge amount of liquidity that has been provided by the ECB, the European Central Bank," she said.

On Wednesday, the Greek government appointed a new finance minister. Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis replaces Evangelos Venizelos, who resigned to lead the Socialist Party at general elections that are expected in the coming months.

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