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New FinMin Pilný says 2018 draft state budget is reasonable

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Prague, May 23 (CTK) – Ivan Pilny (ANO), candidate for the financial minister, considers the Czech draft state budget for 2018 reasonable, he told journalists after a meeting with President Milos Zeman, adding that the deficit of 50 billion crowns is a conservative estimate.

Pilny is to replace Andrej Babis, chairman of the ANO movement, as finance minister on Wednesday.

Pilny said he does not plan any personnel changes at the Finance Ministry or the Financial Administration (FS).

A general election will be held in the country in October.

Zeman said a week ago he does not have any objections to Pilny becoming a new finance minister.

Pilny confirmed today that he will be appointed minister on Wednesday afternoon, after Babis is dismissed.

Sobotka justified his proposal that Babis be sacked by suspicions of tax evasion and influencing the media.

ANO first proposed Deputy Finance Minister Alena Schillerova and Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) as a replacement, but Sobotka rejected them.

He said they both stand too close to Babis or his former Agrofert holding, which Babis transferred to trustee funds in February to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.

Discords in the government coalition, which also comprises the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), started three weeks ago.

Babis presented the draft state budget for next year with a 50 billion crown deficit on Monday.

Pilny said he would like to more accentuate investments.

“Mandatory spending is rising and it is necessary to be very cautious, it is not possible to stifle the economy,” he said.

Pilny said he also wants to know whether spending on science, research and innovations goes into consumption or investments.

He said if he has time enough, he would like to concentrate on the preparation for the construction of a new nuclear source and preparation for the basics of a tax reform.

“Taxes must be made easier, the system is intolerable,” Pilny said.

He said he will be in contact with Babis if needed. He dismissed the claims by Miroslav Kalousek, head of the rightist opposition TOP 09, that he will only be a governor at the ministry.

Turning to freezing orders, which the Chamber of Deputies wants to be applied in justified cases only, Pilny said he has asked FS director Martin Janecek to look at cases that may lead to firms’s liquidation and that are being dealt with by courts.

He said the freezing order should be “a sanction, not liquidation.”

He said the same applies to the VAT ledger statements.

Pilny said his meeting with Zeman was very friendly and that they have similar views of a number of issues.

They discussed the economy, marginally the state budget, differences between ecologists and eco-terrorists, and other issues, Pilny said.

He said the idea of building an Oder-Elbe (Odra-Labe) canal, which Zeman is pushing for, is a very beautiful project.

($1=23.557 crowns)

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