Greece bends to creditors' austerity demands

Last Updated Jul 9, 2015 6:47 PM EDT

Greece's government has agreed to longstanding demands by creditors to impose sweeping sales tax hikes and cuts in state spending for pensions.

In the text of proposals sent by Athens, and seen by The Associated Press, the government concedes to demands it had previously resisted, mostly on moving various categories of goods and services to higher sales tax rates.

Greece is seeking 53.5 billion euros ($59 billion) as part of a new bailout package, according to draft legislation submitted to parliament early Friday. Under the proposal, Athens would receive the loans from the eurozone bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM.

The proposals were sent in a last-ditch effort to reach a deal with rescue lenders after the country's previous program expired and missed repayments to the International Monetary Fund, and Greece was forced to close banks to prevent their collapse under the weight of mass withdrawals.

Eurogroup finance ministers are meeting on Saturday to discuss the plans and prepare a Sunday summit of European Union government leaders.

Greece's creditors, which include the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund and other European governments, have framed the meeting this weekend as a decisive moment in Greece's festering debt crisis.

Greek voters, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, sent shockwaves through Europe on Sunday by rejecting creditors' demands for pension and other government spending cuts in return for a third bailout. The referendum raised the specter of a Greece exit, or "Grexit," from the single currency.

Experts warn that failure to reach a deal this weekend would likely force the ECB to end financial assistance to Greece's financial institutions, forcing a Grexit.

"Greece, and the rest of the world, will likely have to prepare for Grexit if Mr. Tsipras's final proposal is rebuffed by the [European Union]," said Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a client note.