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Greek budget deficit rises amid anti-austerity protests


16:30, October 13, 2011

ATHENS, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Greek government said on Wednesday that the country's budget deficit widened this year, as Athens is facing a new wave of anti-austerity protests.

The central government deficit increased by 15 percent year-on-year to 19.16 billion euros (26.38 billion U.S. dollars) in the first nine months in 2011 from 16.65 billion euros (22.92 billion dollars) in the same period in 2010, according to a statement from the Greek Finance Ministry.

The figure is within the latest revised target for this period that stands at 19.24 billion euros (26.49 billion dollars), but still missed the budget deficit target this year, as the debt-ridden country's international lenders said on Tuesday.

Greece will catch up in 2012, if austerity and reform policies will be implemented in full quickly, said the troika auditors from the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

The troika statement on Tuesday closed a progress review of Greek finances ahead of the disbursement of the next tranche of aid to Athens "likely" in early November.

"It is a positive development, because without this funding, we would be forced to immediately stop payments of salaries and pensions with possible uncontrolled consequences," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting.

According to the Finance Ministry's statement, Greece still lags on revenue collection. Revenues grew by 4.2 percent in the first nine months this year down from 5.3 percent in the first eight months of 2011.

The ministry attributed the decline to deeper than initially expected recession, while expressing optimism that the targets will be covered by year end with the implementation of the additional measures announced in September.

However, as the Greek government prepares to put for vote by October 20 a new omnibus bill for the implementation of the fresh measures, labor unions reacted with a new wave of strikes and protests.

Many ministries on Wednesday were taken up once again by civil servants protesting against the government's labor reserve measure, the cutbacks in salaries within the framework of the uniform salary scale and the merger of agencies.

Archaeological sites, museums and Culture and Tourism Ministry services were closed on Wednesday and will also be shut down on Thursday due to a 48-hour strike called by the Federation of Culture Ministry Employees.

In the meantime, over 6,000 tons of festering garbage, according to unofficial estimations, have gathered over the past nine days on the streets around Athens, as municipal employees, including waste collectors, said they intend to continue a blockade of the capital's main landfill until October 19 over the austerity measures.

Public mass transport employees, judicial officials and lawyers, teachers and doctors will be on strike on Thursday and Friday, while custom and tax officials, bank employees and dockworkers will start mobilizations next week to coincide with a new general strike called by public and private sector umbrella unions ADEDY and GSEE on October 19.


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