Sunday, 20 January 2019

PM: ČR lacks money for anti-drug policy, may use EU funds

9 February 2018

Prague, Feb 8 (CTK) - The Czech state budget is short of 101 million crowns for anti-drugs policy this year, Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) said on Thursday, adding that the government will check whether the sum can be drawn from the EU money designated for but still unused by Czechs.

The money is needed to finance experts and the operation of centres for the prevention of drug addictions, Babis said after a meeting of the Government council for coordination of anti-drug policy.

The debate also focused on the possibility of health insurers covering the treatment for drug-addicted patients.

The budget of the Government Office's anti-drug department, headed by the prime minister, is projected at 130 million crowns this year.

Babis said an additional 71 million is needed for wages and further experts.

Another 30 million are needed to prevent gambling addiction, Babis said, adding that Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaroslava Nemcova has been tasked to find out whether the sum can be drawn from the EU money that has been designated for the Czech Republic but still remains partly unused.

Seven centres of gambling prevention operate in the Czech Republic. Babis said such centres should be in each of the country's 14 regions.

The anti-drug department is to submit a new draft anti-drug strategy and planned measures for the years to come, including their financing and supposed effect, in the first half of the year. The cabinet is expected to approve it by the end of the year.

National anti-drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril said the Czech state annually loses 60 to 100 billion crowns due to smoking and alcohol drinking, up to 16 billion due to gambling and six billion due to illegal drugs use.

The sums include the impact on people's health, work and families.

In the 10.5-million Czech Republic, almost two million people are daily smokers, 400,000 are threatened with alcohol addiction, 150,000 drink excessively and 50,000 are addicted to illegal drugs, Voboril said.

Babis said the financial impact is enormous. He said the trade inspection and police checks must be toughened to prevent the sale of tobacco and alcohol to children and juveniles.

The state must control the gambling facilities more tightly as well, Babis said.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech (ANO) is to start negotiating with health insurers on ways to cover the substitution treatment for drug addicts, who have to buy substitution substances by themselves now and often do so on the black market.

The covering of the substitution treatment would cost 350 million crowns a year, while there is over 300 billion crowns in the health insurance system, Babis said.

A debate might be launched on raising the tax on alcohol, tobacco and gambling, as suggested by Voboril.

Babis said a debate could ponder on "which excise tax is proper or improper." In the past, Babis proposed a lowering of the VAT on beer, which Voboril criticised.

Babis's government originally wanted to transfer the anti-drug department from the PM's jurisdiction to the Health Ministry, but it gave up the plan in reaction to criticism.

The Council for anti-drug policy is to be meeting more often than so far, probably once a month. Its next meeting is scheduled for March 8.

Before, Babis wants to tour anti-drug facilities to see their operation on March 5.

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