By Magda Panoutsopoulou
ATHENS (AA) – The Greek government approved additional austerity measures early Friday with 153 MPs voting in favor of the move.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras supported the controversial bill that sparked outrage when it was introduced May 15 in the 300-member parliament.
Protests followed and public sector workers, including transport employees, seamen, hospital doctors and air traffic controllers engaged in a 48-hour work stoppage.
Tsipras lobbied for the bill’s passage just prior to the vote, telling opposition leaders the measures would help Greece free itself of financial constraints.
"The review is concluding and after seven whole years we are heading toward a comprehensive agreement to extricate the country from the memorandums,” he told lawmakers following a heated debate. “We are passing to a positive agenda for the country and society.”
Tsipras promised in 2015 to end memorandums and austerity but has now paved the way for additional pension cuts and cutbacks for Greek households in the coming years.
“Our homeland is turned into an austerity colony without an end,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, adding that Greece is “living a nightmare which is the result of both Tsipras’ and Kammenos’ decisions”. The opposition leader went on to say that “Greece would have been a normal Eurozone country today if its path had not been interrupted”.
The new measures will bring addition pension cuts in 2019 and usher in a tax threshold decrease in 2020.
Pension cuts will range from 9 percent to 18 percent and the tax-free limit will be reduced by almost 3,000 euros ($3,280) to 5,681 euros ($6,211) of annual income.
Euro zone finance ministers will bring to the table the next disbursement of loans at the next scheduled Eurogroup meeting on May 22.
Athens needs to repay 7.5 billion euro ($8.18 billion) in debt by July.