Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos addresses lawmakers during the parliament's session for the 2018 state budget in Athens, Greece, on Dec. 19, 2017. Greek lawmakers ratified on Tuesday evening the 2018 state budget. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Greek lawmakers ratified on Tuesday evening the 2018 state budget.
The government appears confident that it will be the last one tabled in parliament while Greece is under a bailout program and opposition parties are expressing fear that the circle of austerity will not close soon.
The budget was approved with the backing of the 153 deputies of the two-partite Left-led ruling coalition, while 144 MPs voted against. A total of 297 lawmakers participated in the roll-call vote, which was broadcast live on the parliament's television channel.
It projects 2.5 percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth next year up from 1.6 percent for this year and a 3.8 percent of GDP primary surplus for 2018 up from 2.4 percent forecast for 2017.
Both estimates are higher than the targets set by the current three-year bailout program which expires in the summer of 2018.
Addressing the plenary shortly before the roll call vote Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras argued that the 2018 budget heralds the post-bailout era and Greece's return to normalcy.
"The country will honor the commitments it has made towards its creditors and will achieve a stable and lasting access to the international markets at favorable rates," he said.
The debt-ridden country has been shut out by international markets since 2010, when it resorted to the first bailout to avoid disorderly default.
Following several rounds of painful austerity measures and structural reforms the ailing economy is recovering, according to Athens' and lenders' estimates.
Main opposition conservative New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as well as other opposition parties, argued during the debate that despite some positive financial indexes other numbers are still negative and Greece will most likely need further belt-tightening measures after next summer.
"There will be no clean exit from the memoranda, as new measures are expected to be applied as far as the year 2020, and there will be tough supervision from the country's creditors," Mitsotakis said during his speech.
Over taxation imposed to meet bailout targets is still strangling growth and the real economy, according to critics.