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Greece passes reform bill but at a price

Sunday, Mar 30, 2014 - 02:19

Mar 31 - Greece passes a long-awaited deal with its creditors to clear the way for the next instalment of its rescue loan. But as Hayley Platt reports it's no cause for celebration - strikes and protests followed the vote.

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TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE~ The ferry services link Greece to its many islands. But a strike by seamen at the country's main port of Piraeus threw schedules into chaos. It and Greece's other main commerical port are up for sale. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) CAPTAIN AND PRESIDENT OF THE PANHELLENIC ASSOCIATION OF COMMERCIAL VESSEL CAPTAINS GEORGE VLACHOS, SAYING: "These reforms will be the end of Greek sailors, passenger ships are just the beginning. Furthermore, they want to abolish the sacred right to strike. This law is in reality prohibiting strikes which are the worker's constitutional right." Selling-off state assets is one of the conditions of the bailout, along with many other public sector reforms. But Greece's government has been slow to act. And that's partly why the latest tranche of bailout cash took more than six months to agree. It's also why the main opposition party walked out of a debate on the latest reform bill. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) "SYRIZA" MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ALEXIS TSIPRAS, SAYING: "What you are trying to do is to sell off the country piece by piece to domestic and foreign interests in exchange for the support of creditors in order to try and avoid your downfall in the May European elections." In the end the government was forced to expel a dissenting lawmaker, reducing its majority in parliament to just two seats. Two other deputies also refused to vote in favour of the bill. With an increasingly angry public - that's left the government in a precarious position. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) INSURANCE SALES PERSON, VALANTI EFPATRIDIS, AGED 42, SAYING: "They have crippled us, they have taken away our dignity, our children are hungry. This can't go on any longer." But Greece needs to repay 9.3 billion euros of debt in May. And many believe the country can now move forward. Christian Schulz is from Berenberg Bank SOUNDBITE: Christian Schulz, senior Economist, Berenberg Bank, saying (English): "The shift in the troika programme has shifted away from austerity and potentially excessive towards a structural reforms and this was probably the last big tough package to approve in parliament. The fact that the government majority is smaller shows you that there is not much more room for such crunch votes to go through." Once this instalment is approved by euro zone finance ministers Greece will have had 218 of its 237 billion euro bailout. And the government's next plan is to start talks on how to provide further debt relief.

Greece passes reform bill but at a price

Sunday, Mar 30, 2014 - 02:19

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