Friday, 13 January 2017

Zeman: Budget surplus can help Babis's ANO in election

ČTK |
9 January 2017

Lany, Central Bohemia, Jan 8 (CTK) - The surplus of the 2016 state budget will strongly help Finance Minister Andrej Babis and his ANO movement in the eyes of Czech voters when they will be deciding whom to support in the autumn general election, President Milos Zeman told Blesk.cz on Sunday.

"It will be very important. Not crucial, but certainly very important," he said, adding that Czechs have been used to save money.

Babis announced on Tuesday that the budget surplus was 61.8 billion crowns. At the same time, he said the surplus should be used to lower the state debt.

Zeman said the ministers who planned what to do with the money did not understand economy.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the surplus should be primarily used to cover the budget deficit this year. The 2017 budget deficit was projected at 60 billion crowns.

Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) wanted the surplus to be used for investments, such as water pipings and sewage disposal plants.

On Monday, the leaders of the three government parties will discuss how to use the surplus.

Zeman said the 62 billion was not a sum that was deposited in some bank account and could be used. The deficit increased the state debt, while the surplus decreased it, he added.

Jurecka and others want to rule the country, although they do not understand basic economy, he told the website of the tabloid daily Blesk.

In December, Zeman praised Babis for the budget surplus.

Right-wing opposition politicians criticised Zeman for favouring Babis. Some observers wrote that the two men made a pact. Zeman would support the billionaire's ANO movement in the autumn election and Babis would not field a his own candidate in the early 2018 presidential election.

Zeman is likely to be defending his post and he seems to have no strong rival who could beat him so far. ANO has been the most popular party in the Czech Republic for many months, followed by the CSSD.

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