Draft 2022 state budget lacks reforms, says Opposition

Zagreb - During Wednesday's debate on a draft 2022 state budget, opposition MPs said it showed a lack of reforms, no change of direction, and that it did not offer solutions as prices are rising and living standards decreasing.

Emil Daus of the Istrian Democratic Party said the draft was identical to this year's budget and that the only difference was that one year the gaps were filled by borrowing and another with EU funds, adding that the draft showed no strategic thinking, only short term goals.

Katarina Peović of the Workers' Front said the ruling HDZ was manipulating statistical data. She said Croatia's GDP had been the slowest to grow in the past nine years when compared with its neighbours and that now Croatia had the highest growth because it had been in a depression and had the sharpest fall. We are in the phase of catching up with the neighbouring countries because they are growing faster, she said.

"This budget looks absolutely unreal. The ruling parties obviously think that the coronavirus pandemic will go away and that all problems concerning the post-earthquake reconstruction will be resolved, and the only thing left for us to do is to pick the colour of the 12 French aircraft," said Katarina Peović. 

Export growth is the result of tourism growth and Croatia is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism revenue, while industrial production with high added value is being phased out, Peović said, adding that the draft 2022 budget reflected a step forward towards lower outlays for healthcare.

Independent Zvane Brumnić said the minister of health should step down because of the cut in the ministry's budget, and that he doubted such cuts were possible in the current circumstances.

Ivana Kekin of We Can! said HRK 6.4 billion less was envisaged for healthcare, calling this unfounded optimism given the pandemic and the constant growth of hospital debts.

"In recent days we have heard the prime minister and the finance minister only bragging about the record growth while keeping quiet about the fact that we have not yet reached the GDP level from 2019 and that everything has gone up in price," said Davor Bernardić (Social Democrats group).

Zvonimir Troskot (Bridge) said that the MPs would be listening to the prime minister's praises about the GDP growth and successes compared to last year, with no mention of corruption. The European Parliament has calculated that Croatia loses $10 billion, or 13.2 per cent of GDP, to corruption, he said.

Peđa Grbin (Social Democratic Party) described the 2020 budget as "unrealistic and untenable", while Sandra Benčić (Green-Left Bloc) said that the proposed budget was not showing a transformational direction for Croatia.

Vladimir Bilek of the ethnic minorities' group said he would support the draft, adding that it was necessary to better utilise EU funds to build roads, hospitals and kindergartens. He commended the higher outlays for pensions and amendments on parental and maternity allowances given the price hikes and lower purchasing power.

Dario Hrebak of the ruling coalition's HSLS said the draft was realistic given the effects of the pandemic, that it was necessary to reform healthcare and cut taxes for businesses, and that a lot was expected of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Grozdana Perić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union disagreed with the claims by the opposition lawmakers. This government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is trying to improve the structure of our economy to increase industrial and agricultural production, and this can be seen in the budget, she said.

Parliament will pass the 2022 budget next Wednesday, and the amendments, which can be put forward until the end of the discussion, will be discussed on Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said.

Author: Hina