NEWS

Schaeuble sees Greece staying on economic course despite reshuffle

Germany's finance minister said Wednesday he did not expect Athens to stray from its economic plan to tackle the country's huge debts despite a change of finance minister.

Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters in Berlin that he didn't yet know Yannis Stournaras' successor but he did not foresee changes in policy after this week's Greek cabinet reshuffle.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras "said to me the change in the finance minister's position doesn't mean a change in policy," Schaeuble said, standing next to Stournaras in Berlin.

The Greek has been replaced by 59-year-old economist and university professor Gikas Hardouvelis in a shake-up following the Greek government's poor showing in last month's EU elections.

Stournaras, who spent two years at the finance ministry, was proposed Wednesday to be the next governor of the central bank.

For his part, he told reporters that the reforms undertaken by Greece in return for huge rescue packages had borne fruit and would continue.

But he said that liquidity in the Greek economy remained a big problem, although he added recent days had seen "positive steps" by the European Central Bank which last week took unprecedented measures to kick-start weak lending to businesses.

Greece stood on the brink of bankruptcy in 2010 when international lenders came to the rescue with the first of two bailout packages totalling 240 billion euros ($330 billion).

In exchange, Athens was forced to undertake drastic reforms including wage, pension and job cuts to bring down its runaway public deficit -- prompting often violent protests.

Asked about the possibility of a third lifeline for Greece, Schaeuble told reporters that if it was needed and if Greece fulfilled its commitments, there was a readiness to consider new measures. [AFP]

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