The proposal to increase this year’s state budget deficit to 500 billion crowns is heading for final approval in the Chamber of Deputies. MEPs are expected to vote on it next Wednesday. In today’s second reading, they proposed changes worth more than 165 billion crowns. Thirty draft amendments, including accompanying resolutions, which do not aim to transfer money, came together for the draft.
All the amendments will be convened by the Committee on Budgets on Friday to make a recommendation on them. The Budget Committee has previously supported the proposal of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), which reduces the government’s budget reserve by 100 billion crowns and transfers money directly to selected chapters.
“Funds in the amount of 100.5 billion crowns are proposed directly for specific purposes for budget chapters, which will ensure the continuation of measures taken by government and parliament to fight the coronavirus pandemic and support investment,” said Babiš’s proposal Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová ).
The government has already had to increase the deficit due to the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic. It was originally supposed to be 40 billion, then the House increased it to 200 billion and then to 300 billion. The highest deficit so far was the budget for 2009 due to the effects of the global economic crisis, over 192 billion crowns.
The total budget revenues are to be 1,364.8 billion crowns and the total expenditures 1,864.8 billion. Compared to the originally approved budget, revenues decrease by 213 billion and expenditures increase by 247 billion crowns.
The People’s Party proposed a blanket allowance for a child
Some MEPs have only suggested a reduction in spending. For example, Mikuláš Ferjenčík (Pirates) wants to reduce the government budget reserve and thus budget expenditures by 11, 16 or 25 billion. But Schiller is not considering reducing the reserve and spending now, she told reporters. SPD MP Jan Hrnčíř proposes a reduction in expenditures of, among other things, 20 billion crowns by reducing levies to the EU.
The chairman of the People’s Club, Jan Bartošek, proposes, for example, to add to the amendment to the state budget an amendment to the Act on State Social Support. In it, he proposes to pay a one-time extraordinary child allowance of 5,000 crowns. According to him, this would require a total of 11 billion crowns from the budget.
“We miss the proposals a bit, because what KDU-ČSL is proposing is basically a flat-rate contribution. I don’t think it’s right to give a one-off contribution flat-rate. We want to go the way of increasing family allowances, because there is it. targeted exactly for families in need, “said Schiller.
The opposition criticizes the level of the deficit and growing indebtedness
Opposition deputies in particular criticized the level of the deficit and the impending debt. SPD chairman Tomio Okamura called the debt astronomical, Jan Skopeček (ODS) called the deficit astronomical and warned that the deficit would lead to an enormous increase in debt. “Extending will not get us out of the crisis,” he added.
Václav Votava, a member of the government’s CSSD and former chairman of the parliamentary budget committee, also expressed embarrassment over the deficit. “I will not raise my hand for a huge deficit of 500 billion crowns really easily, it will not be with a light heart,” he said. He warned that his head could not be tucked into the sand before rising debt.
“I wonder if it is really possible to use money meaningfully and effectively, whether it is possible to invest it,” he said. He would expect the government to revise the originally approved budget and look for savings in individual chapters. “I’m not talking about blunt cuts, but about assessing whether some of the chapter’s operating expenses are really necessary at this time,” Votava said.
ODS deputy Skopeček praised him for his words. “We are discussing the beginning of a disruption of public finances,” he said. He added that he was pleased when a representative of the traditionally left-wing party also had a problem with this.
“I consider the proposed budget deficit to be correct for this situation,” said his party colleague and former education minister Kateřina Valachová.
The apology was sent by eight ministers and Babiš
Sixty deputies apologized in the morning for Tuesday or part of it. There were about 110 of them in the Chamber at the beginning of the meeting. The apology was also sent by nine members of the government, including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (YES). The chairman of the TOP 09 club, Miroslav Kalousek, paused. He described the participation of two members of the government in the discussion of the budget amendment as contempt for the Chamber of Deputies.
The chairman of the opposition SPD, Tomio Okamura, noted that the governing coalition has a majority to approve the deficit, so the parliamentary debate is completely formal from the beginning and has no practical impact on the government’s indebtedness. He said the proposed deficit gives the government a blank check on how to spend citizens’ money at will and the government has no idea where most of the money will go.
Kalousek warned against such a discussion of the budget amendment, when, unlike the standard process, the Chamber of Deputies did not set fixed revenues, expenditures and the budget balance in the first reading. It’s extremely risky, he said. He pointed out last week that it could happen that the resulting deficit could eventually be higher than the proposed 500 billion, if MEPs propose adding money for various purposes, but do not state their source. During the standard discussion of the draft state budget, the deputy must state such a source so that his draft can be voted on.
The Civic Democrats want to call on the government to submit an audit of government spending by the end of July. “Existing expenditures associated with the operation of the state do not correspond to the possibilities of the budget on the revenue side and it is necessary to identify expenditures that can be reduced,” said ODS.
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