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BUDGET BRIEFS

Finance Ministry upholds spending freeze for 2Q99

The Finance Ministry has decided to continue with its budget spending freezes for the second half of 1999. In a news conference on November 16, Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová told reporters that budget spending in the second half of 1999 would not have been frozen if social benefits claims had not risen faster than expected.

The freezing of funds in some budget chapters this year has saved the state as much as 1.27 billion crowns. Of particular note, savings in the chapter "government debt" accounted for 400 million crowns; the Labour Ministry saved 600 million crowns in family allowances; and 270 million crowns has been saved in the "General Treasury Administration" chapter. The Finance Ministry proposes to use these savings to cover social benefits payments.

In the first half of 1999, the Finance Ministry froze 3.2 billion crowns in budget spending, and proposed that two billion crowns be frozen in the second half, representing a 2.6% cut in budgetary spending on an annual basis. Sources frozen in the first half of this year have been used to settle debts in the education and health-care sectors, and for repairing damages caused by natural disasters.

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