Prague, Oct 26 (CTK) – The Czech Chamber of Deputies approved yesterday the 2017 state budget draft revenues, expenditures and a deficit projected at 60 billion crowns.
The budget deficit for 2016 is projected at 70 billion crowns.
The right-wing opposition TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats (ODS) failed to push through their proposal that the lawmakers return the draft budget to the government to lower the draft expenditures and deficit by 30 billion crowns at least.
From now on, lawmakers can only propose transfers within the approved budget framework.
The lower house will take the final vote on the budget bill in December.
The budget expenditures approved yesterday are 1,249.3 billion crowns and the expenditures 1,309.3 billion.
The budget enables to raise pensions and the pay of teachers, medical staff and other professions, and an increase in the health insurance payments the state pays for selected groups of population.
Out of 165 deputies present, the budget bill was supported in the first reading by 95 deputies, including 93 from the centre-left government coalition.
The KSCM, TOP 09 and the ODS voted against the bill, as did the minor opposition Dawn movement except for one of its MPs.
The right-wing opposition criticised the too low spending on investments and excessive expenditures on what they called swelling bureaucracy.
The left-wing opposition Communists (KSCM) called for the introduction of progressive taxes.
“The budget bill follows the strategy of a gradual lowering of the deficit, it boosts economic growth and promotes consumption,” Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) told the lawmakers.
He said the draft budget results from consensus between the coalition parties which also include the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and it aims to secure the government’s priorities such as safety and a rise in pensions and school workers’ pay.
“We have submitted a draft budget that will help secure our country’s further period of prosperity, economic growth and low unemployment,” said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, CSSD chairman.
In reaction to the opposition’s criticism, Sobotka said the government has raised the budget sum designed for investments by 25 billion crowns.
“Do not say we fail to invest, since this is not true,” Babis said.
TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek criticised the government for planning to spend one sixth of the overall expenditures on the civil servants’ pay next year.
The draft 2017 budget is not a pro-growth but a pro-consumption one, TOP 09 lawmaker Simeon Karamazov said.
ODS deputy Vladislav Vilimec said the draft budget is nothing but figures that will never be implemented in practice. He supported Kalousek’s proposal that the bill be returned to the government.
Dawn deputy Marek Cernoch said drafting a deficit budget amounts to amateurism and irresponsibility amid a period of economic growth and that the government should propose a balanced budget instead.
KSCM deputy Jiri Dolejs said the budget bill is a wasted opportunity. The government could have used the current economic growth to remedy some persisting shortcomings, but it did not do this, he said.
The budget bill will now go to lower house committees to discuss its individual chapters. The second reading, within which money can be transferred between budget chapters, will take place in the latter half of November.
The final vote will be held at the house’s session beginning on December 7.