Greek parliament ratifies multi-billion bailout

The Greek parliament formally ratified early Wednesday a second eurozone bailout scheme worth up to 130 billion euros ($170 billion) to save it from defaulting on its national debts.

The text was approved overnight by 213 socialist and conservative parliamentary deputies and opposed by just 79 members from the communist left and far-right.

The result was in little doubt given the large majority which the transitional government of caretaker prime minister Lucas Papademos can command.

The ratification came after Greece received on Tuesday a first payout of 7.5 billion euros under its second international bailout, a finance ministry official said.

Greece received 5.9 billion euros from the eurozone and 1.6 billion euros from the International Monetary Fund, the official said.

The eurozone approved the new rescue programme following a debt swap with private creditors earlier this month that wiped some 100 billion euros off Greece's debt.

The IMF followed up with a 28 billion euro package.

The funds are being disbursed in installments provided Greece meets agreed targets to cut its spending excesses and reform its economy.

The government has said that the public deficit for 2011, a key sign of the country's economic recovery closely monitored by its creditors, is expected to close at 9.2 percent of output.

The figure was included in a presentation by deputy finance minister Philippos Sachinidis to economists on Monday.

In January, the then development minister had put the 2011 deficit at 9.6 percent thanks to a successful absorption of European Union support funds.

Deficit reduction is a key requirement for the continued release of EU and IMF loans that are keeping the Greek economy on its feet.

Sachinidis, 49, is seen as a possible replacement for Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos who stepped down this week to lead the socialist Pasok party to elections expected by early May.

A first bailout EU-IMF package worth 110 billion euros was agreed in 2010.

Without the latest funding Greece was facing a chaotic default which European leaders feared would spread throughout the 17-nation eurozone and beyond.

The interim government was formed late last year after Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou stepped down in the midst of the crisis. Its main job is to take measures to avoid a default before organising polls by mid-May.

The election date is expected to be announced next week.


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