Greek lawmakers debate tax breaks, vote on Wednesday

May 15, 2019

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek lawmakers on Tuesday debated new tax breaks proposed by the leftist Syriza administration, seeking to reverse some of the austerity imposed during years of international bailouts.

The package brought to parliament includes an annual bonus for 2.5 million pensioners, whose earnings were depleted by the crisis, and reductions in sales taxes on items ranging from food and energy to the cost of eating out.

Those taxes had been increased in 2015, when Greece received its third international bailout.

Lawmakers were expected to vote on the bills on Wednesday, pushing back a decision initially expected on Tuesday because of a large number of speakers, parliamentary officials said.

“This is another milestone of the effort we undertook to stand by those who carried the burden of the (financial) crisis,” Labour Minister Effie Achtsioglou told parliament.

The debate comes days before local Greek elections, and elections for representatives to the European Parliament. Greece also goes to national elections by October, and Syriza, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is trailing the main opposition New Democracy in opinion polls.

The measures include a permanent yearly bonus for pensioners, whose incomes were slashed 13 times from 2010 to 2017.

Value-added tax on restaurant bills will be reduced to 13 percent from 24 percent, while the tax on basic items from stock cubes and pasta to grain will drop to 13 from 24 percent.

Greece, which required three international bailouts between 2010 and 2015 to stave off bankruptcy, emerged from economic adjustment programmes overseen by its lenders last August.

It still has to meet primary surplus targets to ensure no repeat of fiscal slippage which sunk the country into crisis.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou, writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Ed Osmond)

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