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Babiš wants decision on 2016 budget surplus to be postponed

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Prague, Jan 9 (CTK) – The Czech government coalition leaders failed to agree on how to use the 2016 state budget surplus at their meeting on Monday, and Finance Minister and ANO chairman Andrej Babis proposed that the decision be adjourned until it is clear how the 2017 budget develops.

“Let’s the [2017] budget run and see how it will look in late March,” Babis told journalists.

Babis rejected the Social Democrats’ (CSSD) proposal that the surplus be transferred to the pension system account.

As an alternative proposal, the CSSD suggested that the surplus be used to reduce the 2017 budget deficit.

The deadline for the cabinet to make the decision and submit it to the Chamber of Deputies is April 30.

The 2016 budget was approved with a 70-billion-crown deficit, but it ended in a surplus of 61.8 billion crowns.

The 2017 budget projects a deficit of 60 billion crowns.

“The whole sum could be transferred to the pension system account and used for pension payment and indexation in the years to come,” Prime Minister and CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists earlier on Monday.

“Another proposal is to use the surplus to eliminate the budget gap in 2017 and approximate a balanced budget,” Sobotka said.

The ministers for the ANO movement, for their part, previously agreed that the surplus should mainly be used to reduce the state debt, in accordance with Babis’s proposal.

Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO) said she would also like a part of the surplus to be spent on investments.

“I expect the year 2017 to be crucial in terms of Czech drawing European subsidies. I hope that we will also manage to additionally draw what should have been drawn in 2016, which requires our focus on investments,” Slechtova told journalists.

The third government party, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), want to spend a part of the budget surplus on improving the life of people in the countryside, mainly by building water supply and water treatment systems and repairing regional and local roads.

“These investments are urgently needed. It is impossible for the country to have more than 200 municipalities that still lack a water piping system…and that have neither a sewage water system nor a water treatment facility,” KDU-CSL deputy chairman Marian Jurecka said.

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