ATHENS, March 21 Greece's parliament on Saturday
approved a bill that offers hefty cuts in fines and long
repayment plans to citizens owing billions of euros in overdue
taxes in a bid to boost depleted state coffers.
Shut out from debt markets and with remaining international
bailout aid on hold, Athens risks running out of cash in the
coming weeks and is scrambling to secure ways to finance itself
and meet payment obligations.
The legislation, dubbed "regulations to kick-start the
economy," is part of the new left-wing government's first batch
It follows an anti-poverty law voted on earlier in the week,
the first legislation the new government passed since coming to
power in January. More bills are in the pipeline in hopes
international creditors will release fresh aid after a loan
review that needs to be wrapped up by April.
Greece is due to receive 7.2 billion euros in remaining
European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout funds if it
delivers on its reforms.
The government has said tax arrears have reached 76 billion
euros, or about 42 percent of the country's gross domestic
product. It estimates that only 8.9 billion can be collected.
"With this bill, we are embarking on the only possible way
to settle the debts of a population which has been the victim of
a self-feeding crisis which broke out in 2010 and got worse from
the austerity policies," Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told
parliament during debate of the law.
Under the new legislation, Greece's privatisation agency
will be turned into a wealth fund and will use proceeds to
finance social welfare policies instead of paying down public
(Reporting Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alan Crosby)