ATHENS (MNI) – The Greek parliament approved the 2013 budget just
past midnight Sunday, clearing one more hurdle for the disbursement of a
badly-needed E31.5 billion loan tranche by Athens’ official creditors.

The budget passed with 167 parliamentary members voting yes, 127
voting no votes and 4 voting “present.” With 300 seats in parliament,
151 votes were needed for passage.

In a speech to Parliament shortly before the voting began, Prime
Minister Antonis Samaras appeared confident that payment of the
long-delayed E31.5 billion tranche would “come in time,” though gave no
precise date. Samaras has said that his country would run out of money
by the end of this week without the fresh infusion of cash.

He reiterated that the recent sacrifices of the Greek people, in
the form of a recently approved E13.5 billon austerity package “will be
the last.” The “injustices will begin to be compensated as soon as
Greece achieves [budget] surpluses,” he said.

Samaras attacked Alexis Tsipras, head of the main opposition party
Syriza, for misguiding the public and pushing Greece to return to the
drachma.

“Tomorrow I am moving on. I will not wait for investments, I will
chase them, both domestically and abroad. Our priority is to conclude
our battle for the loan and begin the fight of recovery,” Samaras
declared.

He added that October’s budget figures and recent competitiveness
trends show Greece is “on the right track.”

On Monday afternoon, Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras will
inform his Eurozone peers in the Eurogroup about the budget vote and is
expected to demand a swift release of the much anticipated E31.5
billion.

But several Eurozone officials told MNI last week that a decision
to release the money is highly unlikely at Monday’s Eurogroup meeting in
Brussels. Rather, an emergency Eurogroup meeting is expected sometime
before the EU leaders’ summit on November 22.

However, there is a possibility that the Eurozone finance ministers
on Monday will approve a two-year extension for Greece to reach its
target of reducing the deficit to the EU’s 3%-of-GDP limit.

At the very least, Greece should expect a political statement of
support by the Eurogroup, which will applaud the approval of the budget
and the new austerity package, and recognize the indebted country’s
efforts made so far.

–Athens apapamiltiadou@mni-news.com

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