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Big fat Greek strike: MPs and govt say no escaping austerity

Published time: November 05, 2012 13:33
Edited time: November 05, 2012 19:56

Journalists attend a demonstration as part of a 24-hour media blackout of print, broadcast and electronic media journalists in central Athens on November 5, 2012. (AFP Photo/Luoisa Gouliamaki)

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Debt-ridden Greece enters yet another week of anti-austerity protests. The country risks coming to a standstill as the parliament votes on a fresh austerity package of cost cuts and tax hikes for a new cash injection from its international creditors.

A 24-hour strike starting Monday is expected to unite hospital doctors, journalists, Metro, taxi and train drivers and other transport workers, reports RT's Peter Oliver from Athens.

Working unions of Greece are starting a general strike on Tuesday and are expected to continue it through Wednesday and even to the weekend, when the parliament is expected to vote for the 2013 budget.

The peak of the protests is expected on Wednesday, when the largest rally against austerity will be held in the center of the capital Athens while the national air traffic control will join the strike and Greek airspace will be closed for commercial flights for three hours. Ferry services will also be severely disrupted.

Doctors will strike for three days from Monday that will leave hospitals functioning on emergency staff. There will be no news broadcasts and newspapers will not be published on Tuesday. Schools and public administration offices will also shut down.

Protesters want the authorities pay attention to the fact that living conditions in Greece have been going down for three consecutive years. The unions expect the disruption of public services and transport might influence the austerity plans of the government.

The opposition says the fact that the government so easily accepts all austerity measures insisted on by the creditors should make people rise up and take back their country, with a new election to follow.

AFP Photo/Luoisa Gouliamaki
AFP Photo/Luoisa Gouliamaki

The ruling coalition insists that without the money Greece would go bankrupt before the end of November and prepares to ratify all proposed austerity measures. The ruling coalition expects to save at least 13.5 billion euro (US$17.3 billion) in 2013-2014 thanks to new austerity measures.

Greece has been using loans from international financial institutions to stay afloat starting from May 2010.

The Greek lawmakers must adopt new austerity measures as soon as possible to get another 31.5 billion euro from the second financial help package of 130 billion euro divided into tranches. Without that money Greece would be cashless by November 16.

Greece’s PM Antonis Samaras believes Greece’s financial well-being depends on whether the parliament will pass the new cuts. He said that once the cuts approved and the 2013 budget adopted, all the talk about Greece leaving the eurozone will be over.

If the 2013 does not pass the parliament, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras warned that Greece would face bankruptcy and unprecedented upheaval, because “alternative does not exist”.

In the meantime, the number of parliamentarians supporting austerity continues to diminish, as MPs come under great pressure from the voters. From the 300-seat Greek parliament, the ruling coalition must have at least 151 voices to make its laws pass. As of now the ruling coalition has only a minimal majority of six voices.

A man walks near the Greek parliament on November 5, 2012, as a banner call for a 48-hours general strike next November 6-7.  (AFP Photo/Luoisa Gouliamaki)
A man walks near the Greek parliament on November 5, 2012, as a banner call for a 48-hours general strike next November 6-7. (AFP Photo/Luoisa Gouliamaki)

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