Greek finance minister confident budget is on track

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is confident that the government will not need to introduce more reductions to salaries and pensions next year in order to cover a fiscal gap which Athens estimates at 1 billion euros.

Speaking on private television channel Mega on Monday night, Stournaras said that the 2014 budget, which is to be voted on in Parliament on December 8, is on track to cover the fiscal gap, which Greece’s troika of foreign lenders has placed at around 2.5 billion euros and is currently negotiating with Athens.

“We have submitted a budget with a specific goal and we are submitting proposals for achieving that goal in the best possible way,” Stournaras said.

The Greek finance minister added that “we do not accept that there is a gap. The issue is about finding the right measures to achieve our goals.

“The term fiscal gap changes from day to day. For example, we sent [the troika] data including this October, which were much better than we and the troika expected. We are looking for around 1 billion euros,” Stournaras added.

“They have come down from 3 (billion euros) and I went up from 500 (million euros),” the finance minister said.

Stournaras stressed that he does not believe Greece will need further bailout funding from its lenders attached to more terms, or a third memorandum.

“We do not need a new loan because I believe that we will have the money we need under the existing program, which runs through 2016. What do we need another memorandum for? We would happily sign one of they gave us a loan with 2.5 percent interest, because we couldn’t get 2.5 percent from the markets right now.”

Stournaras said that the government hopes to reach a deal with the troika by the end of the year on the fiscal gap and a number of other contentious issues, including the “prior actions” Athens needs to fulfill in order to receive the next tranche of bailout funding, before Greece assumes the rotating European Union presidency on January 1. He added that the discussion on a possible reduction of Greece’s debt will only commence in earnest once the European statistics agency, Eurostat, publishes its official data on the Greek economy and on the anticipated primary surplus.

“We want the discussion to start now,” Stournaras said, adding that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is against a Eurogroup proposal for the issue to be put off until after EU Parliamentary elections in May.

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