Czech Chamber of Deputies Approves 2024 State Budget with 252 Billion CZK Deficit Despite Opposition Criticisms

Prague, Czech Republic, October 26, 2023 – The Czech Chamber of Deputies has approved the basic parameters of the state budget for the year 2024 following a full day of discussions. The budget outlines a deficit of 252 billion Czech crowns. While the government emphasizes the budget’s soundness, the opposition has criticized it for having an actual deficit higher than the official estimate.

During the plenary session, Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura (ODS) expressed his contentment with the budget proposal. He stated that the government reduced overall expenses, slightly increased revenues, and cut the deficit by 42 billion Czech crowns, considering the proposal to be good, balanced, and realistic.

In the initial reading, the deputies approved essential parameters, including revenues, expenses, the deficit, and its settlement method. The planned revenues for 2024 will rise by 12 billion to 1.94 trillion Czech crowns compared to this year’s budget. Simultaneously, planned expenses will decrease by 31 billion to 2.19 trillion Czech crowns, with a budget deficit of 252 billion. Initially, the government representatives had promised a deficit of 210 billion. In the current year, a deficit of 295 billion is anticipated.

Of the 156 deputies present, 87 voted in favor, with 69 dissenting votes from the opposition, represented by both ANO and SPD. ANO and SPD’s proposals to reject the budget proposal and send it back for revision were unsuccessful. In the second reading, deputies will have the opportunity to propose transfers within the budget, but the fundamental parameters cannot be changed.

Criticism from the opposition focused on the perceived discrepancies in the budget. ANO and SPD members argued that the proposal does not align with reality as they believe that revenues are overestimated, and the government’s financial projections rely on funds that may not be collected due to subsidy reductions. Additionally, they contended that the actual deficit would be even higher than what the government acknowledges.

Alena Schillerová, the head of the ANO parliamentary group and former Minister of Finance, asserted, “The actual deficit of the state budget is already proposed at 270 billion Czech crowns. It is the pinnacle of budgetary magic by the government of Petr Fiala, shortsighted criticisms that will come back to us next year, with interest.”

Tomio Okamura, leader of SPD, echoed similar sentiments. He criticized the government’s handling of the budget and argued that the numbers have been manipulated to present a lower deficit. He also expressed concerns about the planned loan from the EU, which is not included in the deficit.

Additionally, Karel Havlíček, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and Shadow Prime Minister from ANO, expressed his apprehension regarding President Petr Pavel’s absence from the initial budget meeting, in contrast to his predecessor, Miloš Zeman, who attended in recent years.

While the budget passed in the initial round, some coalition deputies expressed their preference for a lower deficit than the agreed-upon 252 billion Czech crowns. Jan Skopeček, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and an economist from ODS, admitted that he would have been happier if the budget had been prepared and approved with the initially planned deficit of 210 billion Czech crowns.

Article by Prague Forum

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