Stournaras insists there will be no more austerity next year

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras picked up on Monday where Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had left off on Saturday, insisting that there would be no new measures affecting people’s income in 2014 as part of Greece’s continuing fiscal adjustment.

“There will be none, this is absolutely certain,” said Stournaras in an interview with Vima FM that echoed Samaras’s pledge at the Thessaloniki International Fair. Stournaras admitted that Greece faced a funding gap of 10 billion euros over the next two years (4.5 billion for 2014 and 5.5 billion for 2015) but said this would not be covered by further tax hikes or wage cuts.

The minister said that any savings would come from structural changes as he called on Greeks to embrace the reforms. “We still have some distance to cover on the reform side and we would like to change the agenda by placing reforms at the top of the pile,” he said. “Reforms are right measures that are in the interests of the people. They are the ones that will reduce the cost of food and energy. They are the ones that will improve the quality of the public sector.”

Stournaras also doused renewed suggestions from SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras about a unilateral move to write down Greece’s debt. “So, is he going to turn up and say he is halving Greece’s debt?” said the finance minister. “If that happens, Greece will be isolated from the eurozone within the next 10 seconds.”

Stournaras also claimed that Greece would not have to adopt any new measures if it gets a third bailout. This message was repeated in an interview by Samaras’s close adviser, Chrysanthos Lazaridis, reflecting the government’s concern about the public reaction to any hint of further fiscal tightening.

There is also pressure within government ranks, with 15 New Democracy MPs on Monday submitting a question to Parliament regarding the broadening of criteria for homeowners to receive help with their heating bills this winter. Stournaras said he would make it easier for subsidies to be claimed but added that the total amount available would be less than last year’s 280 million euros as only 80 million was claimed.