Athens: Greek lawmakers adopted the first budget free of foreign assistance in almost 10 years, predicting economic growth of 2.5 per cent in 2019, better than the expected eurozone average. Tuesday’s budget includes 900 million euros (USD 1 billion) worth of government support for Greeks in the form of family and housing benefits, tax cuts and reduced social charges.
The government had already said it would spare elderly Greeks further pension cuts after receiving European Commission approval for the move. The budget was passed by 154 members in the 300-seat Assembly.
“Today were are voting on the first budget of the ‘post-memoranda’ era … after eight years of austerity,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, alluding to earlier budgets that were dictated by international institutions and donors. Athens has received loans worth a total of 289 billion euros since 2010. However, Greece recently posted a larger-than-expected primary budget surplus, albeit one that excludes the cost of debt payments.
Athens has committed to maintaining that level until 2022 and is banking on a surplus of 3.98 per cent this year. Public debt has climbed to 335 billion euros, or 180.4 per cent, of GDP in 2018 compared with 176.1 per cent of GDP the previous year. It is forecast to fall to 167.8 per cent in 2019.