Greece's parliament narrowly passed a Bill today allowing the government to privatise public utilities even as grim new statistics showed austerity was wrecking the economy.
MPs voted 148-139 to allow privatisations to be decreed by the cabinet, a measure demanded by the "troika" - EU, IMF and European Central Bank - in return for the next €31.5bn (£25bn) tranche of bailout money to enable the country to repay its international creditors.
But a revised budget presented to parliament by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras confirmed that the country's economy is due to shrink by another 4.5 per cent next year - up from a predicted 3.8 per cent - while debt will continue to increase to 189.1 per cent of GDP in 2013.
Greece's debt is ballooning as cuts to wages and pensions together with mass public-sector layoffs rob the population of spending power.
The country's privatisation agency downplayed how much revenue sell-offs would actually raise, reducing its target to €11bn (£8.8bn) by 2016 from €19bn (£15.3bn).
And Mr Stournaras was forced to postpone a vote on the budget itself, which sets out more than €13bn (£10.5bn) in additional spending cuts and tax rises, until next week because junior coalition partner Democratic Left has refused to agree to all the measures.
Parliament had to report the news on its own TV channel as a journalists' strike against changes to their health-care provision caused a media blackout.
Journalists have also attacked government efforts to muzzle the press as magazine editor Costas Vaxevanis went on trial yesterday for publishing a list of Greeks who have stashed fortunes in Swiss bank accounts.
The country's two largest trade union federations, GSEE and Adedy, said they would hold a 48-hour strike on November 6-7 against the new austerity measures.
"The central demand of the unions is the rejection of the unacceptable, destructive and coercive measures imposed by the troika," GSEE stated.
Greek secret service agents held a protest against cuts to their wages and conditions on Tuesday.
Journalists were forbidden from recording the protest.
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