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Greek Parliament votes 2009 budget

world Updated: Dec 22, 2008 08:29 IST
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Parliament early on Monday approved Greece's 2009 budget, which aims to keep the fiscal deficit within the limits prescribed by the European Union, even as the economy is slowing down.

Deputies voted 151-147 for the budget, with former deputy minister Petros Tatoulis voting "present". Tatoulis was expelled from the ruling center-right New Democracy party last month, leaving the government with a single-seat majority in the 300-member Parliament.

The budget debate this past week was overshadowed by recurring demonstrations and riots that have occurred almost daily since a teenager was fatally shot by a police officer in Athens on December 6.

Sunday offered a rare respite from the daily spectacle of demonstrators clashing with police forces, with only a couple of minor marches taking place in Athens suburbs. In the northern city of Thessaloniki a church was briefly occupied.

In Parliament, most speakers chose to speak about the riots and the government's response to them rather than the budget itself. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis accused opposition leader George Papandreou of trying to sully the country's reputation in interviews to foreign media, while Papandreou accused Karamanlis of leading the country to "a state of decomposition".

Karamanlis accused Papandreou of "irresponsible populism and unrealistic promises" that, if enacted, would lead to much higher debt levels.

Greece's GDP growth will slow down to 2.7 per cent in 2009 from 3.2 per cent in 2008, according to the budget, which aims to keep the deficit at 2 per cent of GDP through restrained spending and by raising more than $8.35 billion in additional taxes. The European Union guidelines call for budget deficits below 3 per cent of GDP.