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Message Subject THE ECONOMY & YOU # (Daily Updated Videos & Articles)
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Greek government, European officials plan billions in new social cuts
by Alex Lantier and John Vassilopoulos
July 27, 2012

Greek officials met with European Commission (EC) President José Manuel Barroso and international financial officials yesterday to discuss a new round of budget cuts worth 11.5 billion euros (US$14.4 billion) in 2013-2014.

These cuts, amounting to over 5 percent of Greece’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will devastate a Greek economy already bled white by repeated waves of social cuts over the last three years. The Labor Ministry budget is to contract by €5 billion, largely at the expense of pensions.

Greece’s devastated public hospital system faces another €300 million in cuts. Health minister Andreas Lykourentzos was forced to deny reports that Athens plans to impose a mandatory €1,500 upper limit on health spending per patient in Greece.

Relative to the size of Greece’s economy, these cuts are massive; corresponding amounts would be $802 billion in the United States, £82 billion in Britain, or €136 billion in Germany. They come on top of the deepest economic contraction in Greece since the Nazi occupation of that country; most workers have lost 30 to 50 percent of their wages and benefits. Reports earlier this year suggested that roughly 30 percent of Greece’s population is forced to rely on street clinics for health care.

Athens is making the latest budget cuts in a desperate attempt to meet European Union (EU) debt-cutting targets, which it has missed as austerity policies shrank Greece’s economy faster than it could pay down its debts. The economy is projected to contract by 7 percent in 2012, more than earlier forecasts of 4.5 percent. Greece needs further assistance to meet a €3.26 billion debt payment due on August 20.

The leaders of the Greek government coalition met last night to finalize the budget cuts. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of New Democracy (ND), PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis approved roughly €10 billion of the cuts. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the meeting had been “constructive,” adding: “Everyone wants to contribute to achieving fiscal targets.”

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