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Fico surprises ministers with call for cuts

PRIME Minister Robert Fico surprised members of his cabinet on Monday by announcing that his government had to cut 15 to 20 percent from its planned expenditures for next year in order to be able to afford its welfare, education, health care and agricultural spending programs.

Fico made the statement following a meeting of the Coalition Council, the government’s senior body, to discuss next year’s budget.

Some ministers claimed they didn’t know where the extra money would come from. “Even the current budget draft isn’t enough given the tasks that we have to perform,” said Environment Minister Peter Višváder.

Other ministries, notably economy and education, said they would only be able to save more money by cutting staff.

The socialist Fico government has promised both to spend more money on lower income groups, and to reduce the public finance deficit under three percent of GDP, as required for adoption of the euro in 2009. The political opposition has expressed doubts it will be able to accomplish both goals at the same time.

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