Greek Spending Cuts Clear Way for Loans

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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Greece has approved a plan to raise taxes, cut spending and sell government-owned assets. This clears the way for seventeen billion dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The loans are a share of the one-hundred-fifty-six-billion-dollar rescue deal that Greece secured last year.

The money will help the government to operate and pay its debts until the middle of September. But the austerity plan led to a national strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with violent demonstrations in Athens.

Several hundred protesters and police were injured.

The Greek parliament approved the forty-billion-dollar plan on Wednesday and the details on Thursday. Prime Minister George Papandreou won more support than expected for his proposals. He appealed to parliament to do everything possible to avoid defaulting on the debts of the birthplace of democracy.

"There is a choice," he said. "We can remain a Greece which has a huge public sector, or change to a Greece which has an effective democratic and productive public sector."

Greece is expected to seek more international help, even though years of government borrowing led to the crisis.

Many protesters said their government is making decisions that serve the interests of wealthy nations.

WOMAN: "I want to feel Greek again. But I’m not Greek. I’m German, I’m American. I don’t know what I am.”

But other Greeks, including this man, see the need for austerity.

MAN: “I think the policies are a good step towards finding common ground with the European Union, which is I think a vision that all Greeks should aspire to. I don’t think any country can operate in isolation these days, especially a country the size of Greece.”

Also this week, the International Monetary Fund chose French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as managing director.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn had to resign in May. He was charged with sexual assaulting a hotel cleaning woman in New York. But prosecutors have now raised questions about the believability of the accuser. On Friday a judge released Mr. Strauss-Kahn from house arrest, although he cannot return home to France.

Ms. Lagarde received support from the United States and European nations as well as Russia, Brazil and China. Her five-year term starts Tuesday. The international lender has always been led by a European, but Ms. Lagarde will be the first woman.

Ms. Lagarde has promised to be a strong voice for developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa. But international monetary expert Domenico Lombardi says being a European will also help.

DOMENICO LOMBARDI: "And one key factor in guiding this decision is certainly the ability for Christine Lagarde as a European coming from a key euro area country to exert pressure, leverage on her European fellow finance ministers in terms of taking a more aggressive stance on the European crisis."

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Mil Arcega and Selah Hennessy


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