ATHENS, April 28 Greek lawmakers on Sunday
approved a reform law to unlock about 8.8 billion euros ($8.9
billion) of rescue loans from the European Union and the
International Monetary Fund.
The law, which was a condition for further aid instalments,
passed easily with the solid backing of the three parties
comprising Greece's ruling coalition, by 168 to 123 votes.
Following parliament's approval, senior euro zone officials
will meet on Monday to approve overdue payment of 2.8 billion
euros ($3.65 billion) in rescue loans, finance minister Yannis
Euro zone finance ministers will then meet on May 13 to
release a further 6 billion euro instalment, he added.
Greece needs that money to pay wages, pensions and bonds
held by the European Central Bank that mature on May 20.
The law implements an agreement Athens struck with EU/IMF
inspectors earlier this month, which allowed them to state that
the country was on track to meet its bailout
The legislation makes it easier to fire government employees
for disciplinary reasons, extends an unpopular property tax and
opens up professions such as accountants and bakers.
Measures to cut Greece's budget deficit and make its economy
competitive are a condition of its 240 billion euro bailout.
Athens has already obtained about 200 billion euros of EU/IMF
rescue loans since mid-2010.
Austerity policies imposed on Athens as part of the deal
have saved it from a chaotic bankruptcy and exit from the euro,
at the price of causing its deepest recession in decades.
The economy is expected to have shrunk by almost a quarter
in 2008-2013. Unemployment has soared to a record of about 27
percent. Greeks' disposable income has fallen by about a third
over the last four years.
Stournaras told lawmakers to hold firm, saying Athens has
covered most of the distance to fix its finances. "Now is not
the time to give up," said Stournaras, a technocrat appointed by
conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.