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Minister warns against relaxing reform drive

 Stournaras rules out extending subsidy for heating oil to more families

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed on Monday that Athens cannot afford to lose momentum in its reform effort if it wants to clinch another three loan tranches over the next three months, noting that keeping tight control over public finances was a non-negotiable commitment.

“We won’t get the next installment if we let up,” Stournaras said. “If the pullover starts to unravel, we’ll lose the trust we’ve started to rebuild,” he said, adding that “the worst thing we can do now is start talking about slacking off.”

The disbursement of the next tranche, worth 9.2 billion euros, is due after the January 21 Eurogroup but in order to qualify for the funding the government must approve a tax law aimed at bringing in 2.5 billion euros over the next two years. The bill is expected to be voted on in Parliament by Friday.

Stournaras stressed the government was in no position to make concessions, dismissing suggestions that a heating oil subsidy might be extended. He asked Greeks to “be patient for another year.” “I wish there was the fiscal capacity do to so but there isn’t,” he told Vima FM radio in response to a question about aid for poor families to buy heating oil.

Last year, the tax on heating oil was raised to match that on unleaded fuel, leading the price to rise by 40 percent. Demand for heating oil has since dropped by a reported 80 percent. But, Stournaras said, many of those who qualify for a heating oil subsidy this year have not applied for it.

ekathimerini.com , Monday Jan 7, 2013 (21:25)  
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