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Welfare benefits do not threaten budget, PM responds to Zeman

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Prague, Dec 7 (CTK) – Welfare benefits on which Czech President Milos Zeman would want to economise do not constitute any budget risk, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in reaction to Zeman’s speech in the Chamber of Deputies before the lawmakers started debating the draft 2017 state budget yesterday.
The current government inherited the subsidies to energy renewable sources, which could be another source of savings according to Zeman, Sobotka said.
Zeman said he would economise on contributions to housing or on support paid out in material deprivation.
“The spending connected with material deprivation has been decreasing for a third year in a row now. This is no risk to the budget,” Sobotka said.
He said they amount to about ten billion crowns annually.
Sobotka said the contributions to housing were introduced to allow big groups of inhabitants to manage rent deregulation in the past. They are mainly paid to lonely seniors and single mothers in standard rental flats.
“I do not consider this a fundamental problem of the state budget,” Sobotka said.
He said his government did not introduce the subsidies to energy renewable sources, but it inherited them.
Sobotka said the former government did not legislatively decrease the subsidies in time when the prices of solar panels dropped in 2009-10.
Zeman said the subsidies to renewable sources are a backpack full of stones and a nonsensical policy pursued by the former environment minister for the Green Party, Martin Bursik.
He said the current government could do something about them with budgetary measures, for instance.
Mainly opposition lawmakers take part in the debate in the chamber of Deputies. They defend their demands for transfers of money between individual chapters.
Sobotka said he does not challenge their good intentions, but the government “coalition has reached agreement on the form of the budget which it wants to push through. The preparation of the state budget did not proceed this way in the past either.”
Sobotka said it is not logical if the opposition lawmakers demand various adjustments to the draft budget while they announced beforehand that they will not support it.
($1=25.191 crowns)

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