ATHENS, March 21 (Reuters) - 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 of reforms.
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 debt. (Reporting Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alan Crosby)