11 Feb 2012

Greek cabinet approves draft austerity bill

3:13 pm on 11 February 2012

The Greek cabinet has finally approved a draft bill committing the country to economic reforms.

The austerity measures are required by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in return for a new €130 billion bailout. The country needs the money to avoid defaulting on the repayment of some of its enormous debt.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned on Friday that the country faces "uncontrolled chaos" if it fails to agree to tough austerity measures and defaults on its debts, the BBC reports.

"We cannot allow Greece to go bankrupt," he told his cabinet. "A disorderly default would plunge our country in a disastrous adventure. It would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion."

Mr Papademos said he would do "whatever it takes" to get the deal approved in a parliamentary vote set for Sunday.

Five ministers have resigned from the government over the issue, with one junior party in the three-party coalition saying the demands were "humiliating".

Ministers who disagreed with austerity measures could not stay in the government, Mr Papademos said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, who quit on Friday afternoon, is the most senior defection so far.

Three ministers from the far-right Laos party, a junior partner in the coalition, have quit their jobs as deputy ministers.

48-hour strike begins

Trade unions began a 48-hour strike and protesters clashed with police on Friday.

As the prospect of yet more austerity dawned on an already squeezed nation, popular anger spilt over on the streets of Athens.

Thousands of protesters threw stones and fire bombs at riot police during a demonstration outside parliament, the BBC reports.

Those earning the minimum wage are furious that their salaries will now be cut from €750 a month to €500.

Civil servants worry they will be in the firing line as 15,000 jobs are cut this year.

Workers say the austerity measures are an imposition too far by the EU and the IMF.