The parliament in Athens has approved measures to reduce Greece’s public debt which form the central pillar of a rescue plan to stop the country going bust.
It is hoped private investors will swap their current government bonds for lower returns, slicing 100-billion euros from the Greek debt burden.
The Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told parliament: “Greece will have relief from its public debt. The debt will become viable. After the debt swap, Greece will become another country financially, in the eyes of the markets too.”
The debt swap is just one demand from the EU and the International Monetary fund before releasing a 130-billion euro emergency bailout. Greeks are also subject to stringent austerity measures.
An opposition MP from the left-wing Syriza party, Dimitris Papadimoulis said: “You present it like a piece of cheese so you can hide the mousetrap behind it, and you think people will be fooled. Everyone knows what happens when you see the cheese but not the trap.”
Doctors and health workers started a 24-hour strike by marching on the health ministry, adding their voices to a wave of public anger in Greece. Hospitals maintained a minimum service.
Ambulance driver Kostas Laziris said: “Financially we’re destroyed. I have two children in school, and their future is uncertain. Soon I won’t be able to give them even basic things, especially for their education. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay for extra lessons. I’m very sad and very angry.”
There is some scepticism in northern EU countries, especially Germany, that Greece will stick to the painful spending cuts demanded in exchange for the rescue, especially with half of young Greeks out of work.