ATHENS – The Greek Parliament has begun perfunctory debate on the 2015 budget that is expected to narrowly pass as the government has a majority.
Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner the PASOK Socialists want quick approval of the spending blueprint that comes as the country is still locked in negotiations with its international lenders over unfinished reforms.
The Economic Affairs Committee will debate the draft budget during three sessions before the document is returned to the Finance Ministry for final changes.
The budget has to be submitted to Parliament at least 40 days before the end of the year. The House is due to vote on next year’s economic plan in December.
The government expects to report a primary budget surplus of 2.9 percent of GDP next year, just shy of the 3 percent target set under the country’s 240-billion-euro two bailout from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
But that doesn’t include interest on the debt, the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises and some military expenditures, skewing the results.
The budget also predicts that Greece’s economy will grow 2.9 percent next year, in line with the bailout target but previous forecasts have been off as the country is trying to recover from a crushing economic crisis that has seen Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrink 25 percent.
Unemployment is expected to fall to 22.5 percent in 2015 from 24.5 percent this year, while debt is expected to fall to 168 percent of GDP from 175 percent this year, according to the draft budget, both far short of what Samaras said he wanted to achieve while in office.