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The tax on heating fuel will not be reduced

26 December 2013 / 12:12:17  GRReporter
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The government has categorically rejected the possibility of reducing the tax on heating fuel as a tool to solve the problem with smog. "The solution is not to reduce the price," said Minister of Finance Yiannis Stournaras after an emergency meeting in the morning with the Ministers of Health and Energy, and urged citizens to take advantage of the heating benefits.

As Stournaras said, "We recognize the problem but price reduction is not its solution" because "it will open the door to fuel smuggling and will also entitle all, without any exception, to heating benefits, even in extreme cases such as heating of pools. We want to help the poorest."

Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis added that those who are pushing for the tax reduction are playing the game of smugglers.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the collection of revenue from taxation of fuel (VAT and the special consumption tax) is behind the budget target by 353 million euro or 5%. This delay, according to the ministry, is due to the large stockpile (238 million litres) because of the increased tax, the mild weather and the fight against smuggling.

Based on the data of the Ministry, the reduction of the consumption of heating fuel by 68% - 70% between 2012 and 2013 is due to the following factors:

* the 11.5% reduction is due to the increase in the price through the alignment of taxes

* the 3.4% reduction is due to the recession

* the 23.9% reduction is due to mild weather

* the 32% reduction is due to the stockpiling of fuels and the fight against smuggling.

In parallel, when specifically asked, Stournaras excluded the use of wood-burning stoves as a possible solution and urged citizens to apply for heating benefits, to which more than 600,000 households are entitled due to the expanded criteria.

The Minister of Finance noted that the government had allocated 6 million euro in heating benefits between 15 October and 30 December last year whereas, in the corresponding period this year, the amount given in advance was 60 million euro.

He also added that the alignment of the taxes on vehicle and heating fuels was not at the request of the Troika and that many governments had wanted to take this step but no one had dared to do so.

The previous government proposal to reduce the tax as well as the expansion of the criteria for heating benefits (which were unilaterally legalized by the government) were rejected by the Troika.

As for the cost of providing free electricity to vulnerable groups during the days with smog, according to the Minister of Finance, it will be covered by the primary budget surplus.

Asked to comment on the scenarios under which the Ministry of Finance will be divided and Chrisantos Lazaridis will take the post of Minister of National Economy and Stournaras will be appointed Minister for European Affairs, Yiannis Stournaras stated that these are fantasies of certain people and there are no such scenarios.

Statements by Yiannis Maniatis and Adonis Georgiadis

As Minister of Environment Yiannis Maniatis explained, the provision for free electricity during days when there is smog will be in force from the moment when the respective governor in collaboration with the relevant departments of the Ministry of Environment makes an even preventive recommendation that the use of wood-burning stoves should be suspended. This means that the threshold of 150 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre of air is not considered as a prerequisite.

The measure has been effective in Thessaloniki since Tuesday and will apply to Friday, affecting 70,000 households. The total number of those entitled to this benefit in the country is about two million.

Maniatis said that the measure is applicable to about 150,000 households in Athens. He called for a quick response because there are conditions that favour the formation of smog and reiterated his call for the use of clean energy and electric heaters.

For his part, Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis noted that there is an almost 10% increase in the number of patients admitted to pulmonary clinics in the country, which he said is normal for the season. He stressed that all competent authorities are ready to deal with extreme developments.

"The government is proactive and is helping the poor citizens," said the Minister of Health and urged all citizens to help in dealing with this phenomenon, which is harmful to all.

SYRIZA:  the government does not care for the people

"The government has preferred to send Christmas greetings to the Greek people through Mr. Stournaras, telling them that it does not care at all that they will not get warm this year either," said SYRIZA press officer Panos Skourletis, commenting on the meeting of the three ministers, the main topic of which was smog.

Skourletis added that the message is clear - fuels and electricity will remain expensive and whoever endures. "Mr. Samaras, Mr. Stournaras will endure. We will endure to overthrow you."

Meanwhile, it has been announced that a cloud of smog has covered Tripoli and that, since late yesterday afternoon, the situation in the eastern part of the city has been particularly serious and characterized by a pungent smell of burning wood and eye irritation.

Smog over the past two weeks has been a constant phenomenon in the main city of Arcadia in the Peloponnese during the night hours since stoves have been constantly burning because of the low temperatures.

Tags: SmogFuelsWoodHeatingYiannis StournarasYiannis ManiatisAdonis Georgiadis
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