User Registration
or Cancel

Greece simmers as Antonis Samaras government passes more austerity cuts

Greece's parliament has narrowly approved a new batch of austerity measures, including thousands of public-sector job cuts and transfers, demanded by the country's creditors to keep vital bailout loans flowing.

MPs backed the cutbacks in an article-by-article vote early on Thursday morning, with two of the governing coalition's 155 deputies failing to back crucial articles.

It was the first major test for conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras since a left-wing party abandoned his coalition government last month.

The legislation will put 12,500 public-sector staff, mostly teachers and municipal workers, in a programme that subjects them to involuntary transfers and possible dismissals. It will also pave the way for 15,000 layoffs by the end of next year.

City halls across the country have been closed this week, with uncollected rubbish piling up on the streets, and unions held a general strike on Tuesday against the proposed cuts.

"I fully understand the hardship the Greek people are going through during the great crisis," the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said during the debate. "But I am fully convinced that the path we have chosen is correct."

About 3,000 people protested outside parliament in central Athens ahead of the vote, chanting anti-austerity slogans in a third straight day of protests.
But the reaction in the midst of the summer holiday season was subdued compared with previous, often violent demonstrations that brought tens of thousands into the streets.

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, arrives in Athens on Thursday for a visit planned amid security measures that Greece's left-wing main opposition party denounced as "fascist and undemocratic".

The measures include a ban on all demonstrations in the city centre, including the area outside parliament that has been the focus of past violent protests.

The 13-month-old coalition government claims it has already made progress in stabilising the shattered economy. On Wednesday, Samaras made a televised statement to announce a sales tax cut for restaurant and catering services from 23% to 13% – the first tax reduction since the crisis began in late 2009.

Samaras is due to hold talks with Schaeuble, who is expected to discuss German support for small and medium-sized Greek businesses. And on Sunday, he will meet US treasury secretary Jacob Lew, who will stop in Athens on his way back from a G20 meeting in Moscow.

Schaeuble, widely resented in Greece as the driving force behind the country's painful cutbacks, said his one-day trip was meant to display confidence in Greek efforts at recovery.

"I can well understand people in Greece it's just that we have to help Greece get on a better path," he told Germany's ARD television on Wednesday evening. "The only thing that will really help people in Greece is achieving better economic development, they are on the right track ... it will continue to pay off."

But public sector staff targeted in the cuts said there was no justification for their treatment.

Sitting on the hot asphalt under an umbrella during a protest on Wednesday, 47-year-old Maria Denida joined other women who travelled from the northern city of Thessaloniki to protest outside parliament, together with many of the country's mayors.

"I've been a school guard for 13 years and suddenly we find out we have no job. They say we'll be suspended. But that means we'll be fired," Denida said.

Municipal police officers from around Greece rallied in the capital with their motorcycles and patrol cars. The force, whose duties include monitoring street vendors and parking, is due to be disbanded and incorporated into national police after officers are suspended on reduced pay for up to eight months.

"We cannot understand why this is happening," union head Apostolos Kossivas said. "We asked the government if there was any financial gain – they said no. Did we provide a bad service? They said no."

"So we think they just wanted to make up the quota they needed for job cuts, and are proceeding without a plan," Kossivas said.

Business News

Matalan fails to contribute to Rana Plaza trust fund as deadline looms

Matalan is the only major British retailer not to have donated money to the UN-backed fund to compensation the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.The budget high street retailer has made no contribution to Rana Plaza trust fund ahead of the official fundraising deadline on Thursday, according to the campaign group 38 Degrees.Other British retailers linked to the factory, including… Read More

From Concorde to the iPhone, state intervention drives technological innovation

If you wanted to radically alter the economy, making a country such as Britain as dynamic as China or Brazil, what would the state have to do? Intervene, obviously, but how?That has become a hard question to answer since the onset of free-market economics. Much of the old apparatus of state control has been dismantled. Plus, the political culture in which planners, engineers and technical… Read More

The energy-efficient way to punish Putin and protect the planet

Europe has a Russia problem, as Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European council, recognised on Friday by sending out the latest draft of the proposed sanctions. Nick Clegg is right that Russia should lose the 2018 World Cup, but that is Fifa’s call. In those areas where it has clout, the EU is going to be tougher than most predict. The shooting down of MH17 has dramatised Russia’s role,… Read More

Liverpool hopes business festival will kickstart economic revival

For a veteran of attempts to revitalise one of Britain's great cities, the past six weeks underline how far Liverpool has come over three decades.Since June the bars, shops restaurants and hotels of Merseyside have teemed with more than 75,000 delegates for the International Festival for Business. And Max Steinberg, chair of the IFB, was a member of Lord Heseltine's original Liverpool task force… Read More

UN scores Australia high for quality of life but low on climate change progress

Australia’s position as one of the best places in the world to live was reaffirmed last week with the release of the 2014 United Nations Human Development Report, which saw Australia ranked second only to Norway among all nations in the world.The report, conducted by the UN Development Report Office, measures each nation against a number of criteria, including income, health, education and gender… Read More

Fracking push gets go-ahead across UK as ministers tighten safeguards

Ministers will give the go-ahead on Monday for a big expansion of fracking across Britain that will allow drilling in national parks and other protected areas in "exceptional circumstances".The government will invite firms to bid for onshore oil and gas licences for the first time in six years, with about half of the country advertised for exploration. Ministers are also clarifying the rules on… Read More

Trinity Mirror sets aside £4m to deal with phone-hacking claims

Trinity Mirror has made a £4m provision for the future cost of dealing with allegations of phone hacking.The publisher, which said that it is now facing 17 civil claims, gave the legal update as part of a financial report published on Monday.Trinity Mirror, which revealed that it will this year reintroduce a dividend payment for the first time since 2008, said that the final cost of dealing with… Read More

Reckitt Benckiser set to float US arm RB Pharmaceuticals

Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer goods giant that makes Nurofen and Dettol, plans to spin off its US-based pharmaceutical business.The FTSE 100 firm has announced that RB Pharmaceuticals will be floated on the London stock exchange as a standalone company.RBP, based in the US state of Virginia, generates nearly all its revenues from Suboxone, a heroin addiction treatment, but revenues have been… Read More

Home buyers put off by high prices and rising rates

Rising house prices, the prospect of higher interest rates, and difficulty in raising a deposit are rapidly putting people off buying a house according to Halifax.A survey by the lender identified a sharp drop in the number of people who felt that it would be a good time to buy a house over the next 12 months – to a balance of +5% in the second quarter, from +34% in the first quarter. The trend… Read More

Mothercare drops 6% as it loses both US bidder and finance director

In our view, there is no glossing over Mothercare UK's current problems and, it seems, even the finance director Matt Smith would rather be working for the troubled Debenhams than the very structurally challenged Mothercare. We believe Matt Smith had designs on a larger role within Mothercare which might not have materialised under new chief executive Mark Newton-Jones. Matt Smith may also have… Read More

Business Broker Spain

Web Design Spain