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Greek lawmakers approve 2017 budget

Greece's parliament has passed a budget for 2017 with continued austerity measures. The budget forecasts growth of 2.7 percent for the country next year.

The Greek parliament passed next year's budget on Saturday evening, giving Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hope his country will take bigger strides out of its financial crisis in 2017.

"(Next year) will be a milestone in taking the country out of crisis, and this is the first budget of optimism, growth and recovery," Tsipras told parliament.

The budget called for of approximately one billion euros ($1.06 billion) of new taxes on cars, telephone services, television, fuel, tobacco, coffee and beer. Public spending on salaries and pensions will be cut by 5.7 billion euros.

The country is also eyeing 2.7 percent economic growth next year, having achieved a higher than predicted primary surplus in 2016.

The budget was approved by 152 of the 298 present lawmakers after a five day debate. Two members were absent due to health reasons. The budget was backed by the ruling coalition from the left, and opposed by all other parties.

"You're the living nightmare of productive Greeks…the only thing you know is to levy taxes," said conservative New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greece is currently on an 86 billion euro rescue package from the European Union, its third such package negotiated in the space of five years.

Effect on refugees

Tsipras announced in a surprising move Thursday there would be a tax break for Greek islands sheltering thousands of migrants. Tsipras' critics called the act a political ploy and the European Commission said it was "not made aware of all the details of the announcement before they were made." 

But Tsirpas said the tax break was not a political tactic."Europe owes a debt to (these islanders), the Greek state owes them its support," said Tsipras.

Greece has been at the forefront of the migrant crisis, with thousands of migrants landing in Greece hoping to seek asylum in Europe. Tens of thousands arewaiting to be processed in Greece in order to continue on into Europe.

kbd/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)

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