PM, FinMin say 2020, 2021 budgets with surplus despite slowdown
Addressing a new regular session of the National Assembly, Šarec and Bertoncelj reminded the MPs that both the Slovenian economy and global economy were slowing down.
Considering the global slowdown, excessive expenditure needs to be stopped and systemic pressures on long-term sustainability of public finances need to be reduced, said Bertoncelj. "We need structural measures to achieve this, and comprehensive structural reforms would be even better."
The budgets feature the highest expenditure to date: for 2020 it is set at EUR 10.35 billion and for 2021 at EUR 10.45 billion. A government budget surplus of roughly 1% of GDP is planned for both years.
Revenue is thus expected to amount to EUR 10.82 billion in 2020, a 5.6% rise on the estimated revenue for this year. In 2021, the revenue is projected to rise to EUR 11.11 billion.
"The estimated revenue for both years exceeds the expenses and enables us to continue on the path of improving the budget balance," said Bertoncelj, adding that with the exception of this and last year, there was practically no budget with a surplus in recent years.
The result is EUR 24 billion in general government debt, according to the minister. "This is a debt which may be lowered by selling state assets or managing public finances prudently," he told the MPs.
Šarec added that these were record budgets. "The state has never head higher revenue and this is why expenditure is also higher," he said, while adding that the government was following the fiscal rule.
While drafting the budgets, the government had future well-being and stability in mind, added Bertoncelj. "We stuck to the fiscal rule and followed the principles of caution and economy," he said.
The prime minister said that "we have all reasons to be optimistic, but with a bit of sobriety and caution," describing the budgets as an appropriate balance between the development and social orientation.
The government has followed its priorities - healthcare, science, economy and security and defence system, confirming Bertoncelj's words that the government had public finance sustainability and stability in mind.
The finance minister added that the most money in the next two years would go for education and sport, while funds for science and information society were being increased the most. "The purpose is to increase competitiveness and added value of the economy in the long run."
Additional funds also go for the development of the defence system, internal security, border control, migration policy measures and measures addressing demographic changes. Šarec and Bertoncelj also stressed the social aspect.
"Some of you reproach me for the budgets not being welfare-oriented? Really. Let the numbers speak," said Šarec, noting that EUR 155 million more would be earmarked this year for social transfers compared to last year.
He was referring to the criticism from the Left, the minority government's tentative partner in the opposition, which has also been threatening with withdrawal of its support for the budgets.
While tensions grew stronger in recent weeks between the coalition and the Left, it is likely that the documents will be confirmed as the right-wing opposition National Party (SNS) indicated it would vote in favour.
MPs will not yet discuss the budgets at Monday's session. They will do so on parliamentary committees, whose sessions will be convened between 8 and 18 October.
The Finance Committee as the main committee in charge of the budgets will be the last in session, on 18 October, while the National Assembly is expected to vote on both budgets at the end of November.