(Adds comments from news conference, background)
By Michael Shields
ZURICH, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, a fiscal hawk who recognised the need to turn on the money taps to help Switzerland get through the coronavirus pandemic, will step down at the end of this year, he said on Friday.
Maurer, former leader and still member of the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), has been finance minister since 2016. He had also served as defence minister and held the revolving Swiss presidency in 2013.
His successor is set to be decided on Dec. 7, when parliament elects cabinet members, he said. The SVP as biggest party in parliament would have no problem maintaining its two of the seven cabinet seats, he added.
Maurer, 71, said no single event led to his decision to step down, but noted that after four decades in politics, it was time for a change.
"In the past one-and-a-half years, I felt I have a lot of energy to do something else," he told a news conference in Bern.
Maurer, an old-school politician who rose from his farming roots in Zurich to reach the highest ranks of Swiss government, said he did not intend to play an active role in politics once he leaves.
But he took a final shot at the news conference on Friday at the "spending spree" gripping Swiss politics that he complained was leading to structural deficits.
He also revealed he pays no attention to the news media other than a daily glance at the teletext news page, and told staff to let him know of any big stories that had dominated the news for at least a week, which he said was seldom the case.
He said he knew the cleaning women in the government building where he worked better than anyone else, and suggested people read more books rather than just social media.
He told reporters he had just read Tolstoy's War and Peace, adding: "That brings more to me than your products." (Reporting by Michael Shields, Editing by Miranda Murray and Jane Merriman)