ATHENS, June 10 (Xinhua) -- The Greek cabinet adopted Thursday a new package of austerity measures and privatization program in a renewed bid to overcome the debt crisis.
The package, known as the "mid-term fiscal strategy plan for the period 2011-2015," has been forwarded to the parliament for debate, which will start next week, with a vote most probably on June 28, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told reporters.
Backed by his socialist party's 156-seat majority in the 300-member parliament, Prime Minister George Papandreou told his cabinet members that he would also continue efforts to seek a wider cross-party support to the plan.
According to media reports, he was planning a new round of meetings with opposition leaders despite the fact that labor unions and anti-austerity protesters continued to rally against the new measures.
Parlimentary sources said the new package was aimed at saving at least 28 billion euros (40.69 billion U.S. dollars) through tax hikes on major real estate property, levies on incomes over 8,000 euros (9,270 dollars) and new cutbacks on salaries and pensions over the next four years, along with the 50-billion-euro (72.66 billion dollars) target of the wide privatization program which starts this summer.
The Finance Ministry argues that without these new painful measures, the sovereign debt will reach 501 billion euros (728.1 billion dollars) or 198 percent of GDP in 2015.
Without the implementation of the new round of measures, Greece is threatened with an early end to the vital multi-billion euro funding from EU and International Monetary Fund which has provided the euro zone member country with a safety net since last year to avoid the default risk.
Greece was granted a 110 billion euro (159.86 billion dollars) aid package in May 2010 in exchange of austerity and reform policies to overcome the crisis during a three-year period, but this year lags in targets, reports some negative signs and cannot return to international markets for loans next year, as initially planned.
According to the latest estimations from the Greek Statistics Agency on Thursday, for instance, the ailing Greek national economy shrank by 5.5 percent on an annual basis in the first three months this year, instead of 4.8 percent as initially expected.
Therefore, EU partners examine this June the release of a second bailout package that could amount to dozens of billion euros to avoid a Greek default or uncontrolled Greek debt restructure that could hurt the common currency and other European economies.