Greece passes austerity measures despite protests



ATHENS // A day after protests in Athens killed three people, tens of thousands of more marched through the capital yesterday after parliament passed austerity measures needed to secure US$149 billion in international loans. The measures, which will slash pensions and civil servants' pay and increase consumer taxes, passed by a 172-121 vote in parliament.

Three Socialist legislators who dissented in the vote were expelled by George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, reducing the party's seats to 157 in the 300-member parliament. Demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans through loudspeakers, unfurled a giant black banner outside parliament. More than 30,000 demonstrators filled downtown streets, chanting "They declared war. Now fight back."

"We have done what was necessary, not what was easy," George Papaconstantinou, the finance minister, said after the vote. "Without these measures, we'd be thrown into the deepest recession this country has ever known." The minister said Greece would default on debt payments this month unless it received the bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and 15 euro zone countries who had remained divided for months on how to aid Athens. Greek democracy has been "put to the test" and violent protests during which three people died are "not a solution" to the country's crisis, Mr Papandreou told parliament yesterday before the vote.

"The future of Greece is at stake. The economy, democracy and social cohesion are being put to the test," he told lawmakers during a debate on an unprecedented government austerity drive. In a heated address, he said "neither rocks nor violence will get Greece out of the guardianship" of the European Union or the International Monetary Fund, which have demanded the austerity measures for an international bailout.

He said that the "vote is only the start" and that "the application of the plan requires a responsible position from the parties and society ? Everyone must take their responsibilities." "We will work hard so that today's Greek problem becomes tomorrow's Greek miracle," he said. "Today things are simple. The rescue loans are aimed at containing the debt crisis and keeping Greece's troubles from spreading to other countries with vulnerable state finances such as Portugal and Spain. The money will come from the International Monetary Fund and the 15 other governments whose countries use the euro. Opposition parties lambasted the government for imposing measures that are too harsh for the population to bear. "The dose of the medicine you are administering is in danger of killing the patient," the conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras said. "You know that these measures have sparked a social explosion ... The citizens of this country have to believe there is a way out. Because whoever cuts pensions ... cannot convince anyone." Mr Samaras also expelled a dissenting legislator, the former foreign minister Dora Bakoyiannis, reducing his share of parliamentary seats to 90.

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Tips for newlyweds to better manage finances

All couples are unique and have to create a financial blueprint that is most suitable for their relationship, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial. He offers his top five tips for couples to better manage their finances.

Discuss your assets and debts: When married, it’s important to understand each other’s personal financial situation. It’s necessary to know upfront what each party brings to the table, as debts and assets affect spending habits and joint loan qualifications. Discussing all aspects of their finances as a couple prevents anyone from being blindsided later.

Decide on the financial/saving goals: Spouses should independently list their top goals and share their lists with one another to shape a joint plan. Writing down clear goals will help them determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for short-term goals, and how they will reach their long-term financial goals.

Set a budget: A budget can keep the couple be mindful of their income and expenses. With a monthly budget, couples will know exactly how much they can spend in a category each month, how much they have to work with and what spending areas need to be evaluated.

Decide who manages what: When it comes to handling finances, it’s a good idea to decide who manages what. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills, while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.

Money date nights: Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation and couples should not wait for something to go wrong. They should set time aside every month to talk about future financial decisions and see the progress they’ve made together towards accomplishing their goals.

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