Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Nominated finance minister vows to draft austere budget

ČTK |
18 May 2017

Prague, May 17 (CTK) - The chairman of the Czech Chamber of Deputies economic committee, Ivan Pilny (ANO), told journalists on Wednesday after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) gave a go-ahead to his nomination as new finance minister that he will try to draft an austere state budget for 2018.

Pilny said he had defended a budget as general director of the Microsoft for the Czech Republic even against its founder Bill Gates.

He said he had told Sobotka he would be mean in the question of the state budget.

However, Pilny's appointment is not a foregone conclusion because President Milos Zeman has been reluctant to accept Sobotka's proposal to dismiss Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO).

Zeman said he would decide on the issue after his return from China. He returns at midnight.

"We discussed some ten highly urgent affairs such as the dissolution of the state budget reserve. It is to be spent on some highly urgent problems," Pilny said after his conversation with Sobotka.

Pilny said they had also discussed some systemic steps that might be taken by the end of the election term and which could be prepared for the next government, to arise from the October regular election.

"In the sphere of legislation, we will be unable to do much," Pilny said.

The state budget bill was not on the agenda of the talks, Pilny said.

"I told him I am quite mean. There is not much to talk about since I have also defended budgets against Gates or [former chief executive officer of Microsoft] Steven Ballmer, which was a pretty tough job," he added.

Pilny said he was prepared for the ministers who would discuss their demands for their budget chapters for next year during the summer.

"This is a natural process. The people will ask for the money that is not available and it will be my task to keep the reins on the budget and deficit," he added.

He said he would not be the only one to decide on the priorities.

When it comes to the dissolution of the state budget reserve, the demands are certainly higher than the sum, Pilny said.

"One has to find priorities among them," he added.

He said he could see a difference between one-off spending, such as that on the Romany Holocaust memorial in Lety, south Bohemia, and the expenditures obliging the budget for the years to come.

"One has to proceed very carefully," Pilny said.

While in the Chamber of Deputies, Pilny advocated the introduction of electronic sales registration (EET).

He said he would not propose any amendment to the legislation.

"There are a number of things that are yet to be modified, but the law cannot be opened. One has to deal with this because the situation is chaotic," he added.

Pilny said it was vital for the coalition government to finish its term by the regular date.

He said he had told Sobotka he did not feel dependent on Babis.

"There will be certainly consultations with him, but this does not mean that I will accept his views or let him influence me in some direction," Pilny said.

"This is quite a natural process of handing over the post," he added.

He said Babis would not become his aide, but he presumed that they would cooperate in the first stage of handing over the post.

ANO was founded by food and media mogul Babis in 2012. With the slogan that it will run the country "like a business," it was very successful in the 2013 election to the Chamber of Deputies, in which it gained almost 19 percent of the vote. Now it is easily leading popularity polls.

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