Greek Lawmakers Approve 2014 Budget to Plot Debt-Relief Course

Greek lawmakers approved the 2014 budget, which plots a course for the country to secure additional debt relief from the euro area and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece’s 300-seat parliament passed the plan today with 153 votes in favor and 142 votes against, according to results read out by the speaker, Evangelos Meimarakis.

“We’re getting our fiscal economics in order and we’re fixing fundamental long-term imbalances in our economy,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told lawmakers before the vote. “We’re not just winning the battle to reform, we’re winning the battle to become competitive and standing on our own feet.”

Under Greece’s bailout from the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank, known as the troika, posting a primary surplus will qualify Greece for additional debt relief. The government and troika officials have been locked in talks since September, with the two sides disagreeing over fiscal measures needed for the government to achieve its 2014 budget projections.

The troika will send a full negotiating team back to Athens in January “after the authorities have made further progress,” European Commission spokesman Simon O’Connor said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. Technical discussions will continue in Athens next week, he said.

The government’s surplus before interest costs will be at least 812 million euros ($1.1 billion) this year. It will rise in 2014to 2.96 billion euros, or 1.6 percent of gross domestic product, according to the budget, which sees GDP expanding 0.6 percent in 2014 after contracting 4 percent this year. Public debt is seen peaking at 176 percent of GDP this year.