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Lower house budget committee backs 2018 budget bill

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Prague, Nov 30 (CTK) – The Czech lower house budget committee backed on Thursday the 2018 budget bill submitted by the outgoing government and recommended that the plenary session approves the budget’s draft basic parameters, including a 50-billion-crown deficit, in the first reading scheduled for December 5.

The budget bill is being discussed by the new Chamber of Deputies that emerged from the October general election. The proposed budget gap is 10 billion crowns lower than that projected for 2017.

If the Chamber of Deputies approves the budget revenues, expenditures, deficit and its settlement in the first reading, these parameters will be impossible to further change, and only money transfers within the budget will be possible in the following two readings.

Outgoing Finance Minister Ivan Pilny (ANO) told the budget committee members on Thursday that crucial changes to the basic parameters are no longer possible because they would have to be preceded by changes to laws.

The committee chairwoman and rapporteur on the budget bill, Miloslava Vostra (Communists, KSCM), said the deputies have no space to change the basic parameters without avoiding a provisional budget phase as of January 1.

“A stop gap budget is the last thing political parties would wish,” Vostra said.

Civic Democrat (ODS) MP Jan Skopecek said a 50-billion-crown budget deficit is unsubstantiated after years of economic growth. Nevertheless, the budget expenditures have been strongly influenced by the mandatory spending, about which the outgoing cabinet failed to do anything in the past four years, he said.

Defending the draft budget, Pilny said the growing mandatory expenditures reflect the population ageing and the ensuing pressure for a rise in pensions and healthcare spending.

In the committee’s vote, the 2018 budget bill was supported by the lawmakers for ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD), both partners in the outgoing government that prepared the bill.

Skopecek (ODS) and STAN deputy Vera Kovarova voted against the bill, while the two representatives of each the Pirates, the KSCM and the SPD movement abstained from the vote.

To prevent a stop-gap budget, the Chamber must pass the budget bill by the end of December.

The 2018 budget revenues are proposed at 1314.5 billion crowns, the expenditures at 1364.5 billion. The largest budget chapter, more than 588 billion crowns, is traditionally that of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry.

The budget bill is based on the expected 3.1 percent economic growth and a 2.3-percent average rise in consumer prices. The tax revenues are expected to reach some 772 billion crowns.

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