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ČSSD’s criticises Czech draft 2018 budget prepared by Babiš

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Prague, May 25 (CTK) – The draft Czech state budget for 2018, which finance minister Andrej Babis (ANO) presented before leaving the post on Wednesday, is hastily-made, omits billions worth of necessary expenditures and needs to be changed, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said yesterday.

The draft fails to earmark billions of crowns for co-financing EU-subsidised projects and for investments, for example, Sobotka said.

The Finance Ministry, with Ivan Pilny (ANO) at the head, dismissed the CSSD’s criticism as misleading.

Before, CSSD ministers Katerina Valachova (education, youth and sports), Michaela Marksova (labour and social affairs), Miloslav Ludvik (health) and Milan Chovanec (interior) told the media that they want a higher sum to be assigned to their ministries next year, compared with Babis’s draft.

Marksova said her ministry needs an additional 6.2 billion crowns for raising the wages in social services, building and repairing homes for seniors and the disabled, and raising the state subsidy to those caring for the disabled.

Ludvik said the Health Ministry needs an additional four billion crowns for investments and co-financing EU-subsidised projects.

Valachova needs money to cover a school system reform and the promised rise in teachers’ pay, she said.

Chovanec said his ministry needs money for fighting terrorism.

An increase in spending worth several dozen billions of crowns across all sectors is needed, Sobotka told journalists.

“We want the debate to focus not only on the volume of money but also on the budget structure,” he said.

Rejecting the criticism, the Finance Ministry said the draft budget does take all the CSSD-mentioned priorities into account.

“The Finance Ministry fully reflects on all of the government’s priorities…The ministers’ comments on the draft today are nothing but statements misleading the public and making unfeasible promises,” the ministry said.

Babis reacted similarly. “It took us several months to prepare the draft budget, which was discussed in the [government] coalition,” Babis told CTK.

The ministry said the demands presented by the CSSD ministers would mean additional expenditures of some 30 billion crowns.

“In a situation where all of us agree on the inviolable budget deficit of 50 billion crowns, I will ask individual ministers whether and where they want to save money in their respective sectors,” Pilny said and praised the draft budget’s quality.

Presenting the draft on Monday, Babis said it projects a rise in pensions, wages, welfare and sickness benefits as well as a defence spending.

The draft secures a year-on-year increase in the budgets of most ministries and other state offices.

The overall state expenditures are to rise by 32.7 billion crowns to 1,342 billion next year, and the revenues by 42.7 billion to 1,292 billion, according to the draft, which will most probably undergo changes before being approved by the cabinet and submitted to parliament in the autumn.

($1=23.642 crowns)

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