Zagreb - During Wednesday's debate on a 2021 budget revision, ruling coalition MPs praised the efforts the Finance Ministry was making in difficult times, while the Opposition asked where the money was going and claimed that expenditures were not under control, notably in health.
Ljubica Maksimčuk of the ruling HDZ praised Minister Zdravko Marić's work in challenging times, claiming that expenditures had increased this year and that the cost of COVID alone was HRK 40 billion to date.
Rade Šimičević (HDZ) also praised Marić, saying no one could fault him given the pandemic, last year's earthquakes, and the global crisis.
Independent Vladimir Bilek praised Marić for reducing the public debt-to-GDP ratio. The opposition said the budget would not be viable without structural reforms.
Branko Grčić of the Social Democratic Party asked if the plan to freeze expenditures in the next three years meant "the government has finally decided to embark on serious reforms."
"Structural reforms have been announced for five years now and not one has been carried out," said Nikola Grmoja of Bridge.
Minister Marić said the budget's expenditures side was crucial for successful public finances. "The health reform will focus on expenditures, how to manage taxpayers' money more efficiently, more rationally and more justly, all in order to make the health system financially viable."
Independent Zvane Brumnić said incentives for businesses and citizens as well as contributions for dealing with the earthquake damage had been reduced, wondering where the money went.
The bulk went towards pension indexation, job-keeping grants, and healthcare, said Marić.
Opposition MP said the budget relied on EU funds too much, asking if Croatia was capable of absorbing them.
Marić said Croatia was constantly boosting its administrative capacity and that everyone should strive for absorbing as much money as possible.
"Croatia won't be saved by absorbing EU funds but by carrying out reforms," said Dalija Orešković of Centre.
Marić also said Croatia was expected to pay the first installment for fighter jets, in the amount of HRK 2.4 billion, by year's end.
(€1 = HRK 7.5)