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Greek Parliament OKs Austerity Budget

Greek lawmakers approved early Monday the country's austerity budget – the final hurdle for the beleaguered country to get a massive $40 billion international bailout.

The country would go bankrupt without the money; some $6.3 billion worth of treasury bills come due Friday. Reporter John Psaropoulos covered the story for NPR's Newscast Unit. Here's what he said:

"Fourteen billion dollars' worth of spending is being cut from next year's budget, $6 billion of that directly from pensions and state salaries. The government argues that these are the last cuts. Greece has cut its deficit by $30 billion and has about another $10 billion to go. But some of Greece's creditors are worried that Greece's total debt, which will stand at 189 percent of the country's GDP next year, may be unsustainable. That means the bailout money may not necessarily be forthcoming in Monday's Eurogroup meeting, no matter what sacrifices Greece makes."

Eurogroup refers to the informal gathering of the finance ministers of the countries that make up the eurozone.

The budget, which passed 167-128 in the 300-seat Parliament, comes just days after another bill that combined austerity measures with tax increases received a narrow majority. The vote came amid peaceful pretests outside Parliament.

"Just four days ago, we voted the most sweeping reforms ever in Greece," said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. "The sacrifices (in the earlier bill and the budget) will be the last. Provided, of course, we implement all we have legislated."

His comments were reported by The Associated Press.

Here's more from the AP:

"Finance ministers from the 17-nation eurozone are meeting in Brussels later Monday, with Greece high on the agenda. However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has indicated it is unlikely that the ministers will decide on the disbursement at that meeting.

'We all ... want to help Greece, but we won't be put under pressure,' Schaeuble told the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

Schaeuble said the so-called troika of debt inspectors likely won't deliver their report on Greece's reform program by Monday. The creditors also want to see what the debt inspectors have to say about Greece's debt sustainability."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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