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Greece : health service cuts approved by parliament

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The Greek parliament early Thursday approved a bill to cut health service costs that had been demanded by the European Union and the IMF to unblock a new aid plan for the debt-stricken country.

The text was adopted by a large majority, deputy speaker Grigoris Niotis said, on the eve of an EU summit that should pave the way for fresh loans to Greece.

The move came after Greek unions on Wednesday staged walkouts as part of Europe-wide demonstrations against austerity measures. The bill, passed under an emergency procedure, lays down a cut in pharmaceutical expenses through the development of computerised prescriptions and the use of generic medicines.

It also limits the public health budget via mergers of hospital groups and calls for the setting up of a unified pension scheme consolidating numerous groups whose current total deficit is put at 850 million euros for 2011.

The EU and International Monetary Fund made the passing of this text and other measures a condition for releasing a new bailout of 130 billion euros ($175 billion).

The latest rescue, after a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF loan in 2010, is tied to a massive debt writedown with private creditors designed to reduce Greece’s 350-billion-euro debt by 107 billion.

Athens, March 1, 2012 (AFP)