Greece approves austerity budget

New York Times News Service /

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s fragile government pushed a tough budget of spending cuts and tax increases for 2013 through Parliament early today, moving a step closer to unlocking crucial rescue financing from the country’s foreign creditors.

The vote occurred as about 20,000 demonstrators gathered outside Parliament to protest austerity measures, the second such protest in a week.

The budget passed comfortably, 167 to 128, in a roll-call vote after three days of vehement debate.

Most members of Parliament from a three-party coalition voted for the budget, which calls for 9.4 billion euros, or $12 billion, in cuts to salaries, pensions and social benefits, raising the retirement age to 67 from 65 and higher taxes. Four lawmakers voted “present,” which amounts to a blank vote, and one was absent.

Addressing Parliament before the vote, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the new cuts would be the last and appealed to Greece’s lenders, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, to support the debt-ravaged country.

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