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Budget talks begin

THE SLOVAK government yesterday approved a resolution based on which the public finance deficit in 2007 should not exceed 3 percent of GDP. The budget draft is only a working version and does not include any cabinet priorities as yet.

The government has approved a budget framework for the upcoming three years based on which the budget deficit in 2008 should decrease to 2.5 percent and further to 2 percent in 2009, the Hospodárske noviny daily wrote.

PM Robert Fico said that the budget's "first version must undergo major changes" although he promised that the deficit target would be adhered to. The government has pledged to fulfill all criteria required for Slovakia's entry to the eurozone in 2009, including keeping the public finance deficit under 3 percent of GDP.

Further talks are expected on the budget in the upcoming weeks. Many ministries are unhappy with the cuts in their budgets that were proposed by the Finance Ministry. The cabinet now has less than two months to agree on the budget.

The government plans to submit the draft budget to parliament by October 15. By that time, it also has to discuss laws that will help shape the new budget, such as the law on a reduced VAT rate for selected goods, or a higher income tax rate for high earners.

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