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Cabinet approves austere budget

The Slovak government on February 22 passed the 1999 state budget as proposed by the Finance Ministry.
"In the year 1999, income to the volume of 179.9 billion crowns is budgeted and a level of expenditure of 194.9 billion. The deficit of the state budget is budgeted at 15.0 billion crowns," said government spokesman Martin Lengyel in a prepared statement. The 15 billion crown budget deficit is equal to around 2% of gross domestic product compared with a deficit of more than 5% of GDP in 1998.

The Slovak government on February 22 passed the 1999 state budget as proposed by the Finance Ministry.

"In the year 1999, income to the volume of 179.9 billion crowns is budgeted and a level of expenditure of 194.9 billion. The deficit of the state budget is budgeted at 15.0 billion crowns," said government spokesman Martin Lengyel in a prepared statement. The 15 billion crown budget deficit is equal to around 2% of gross domestic product compared with a deficit of more than 5% of GDP in 1998.

Finance Ministry spokesman Peter Švec said on February 24 that "every ministry, even the Education Ministry, got less than last year, except for the Health Ministry. There just isn't any money." Švec said the decreased funding had not affected any one ministry in particular. The Defence Ministry, for example, will receive 800 million Sk less than its 1998 total, while the Slovak Intelligence Service has had its budget chopped from 1 billion to 799 million Sk.

Among the areas to receive increased funding over 1998, Švec said, were the country's eight regional offices, which collectively received 4.5 billion Sk more than last year, as well as the nation's Romany community, which is to get 15 million Sk more this year.

Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová said the government had adopted some measures to shore up budget revenues, such as increases in fees on identity cards, drivers licences and passports, which would collectively bring in an extra 400 million Sk in 1999. It was also considering imposing extra taxes on fuels (400 to 800 million Sk), motor vehicles (an extra 2.1 to 2.7 billion Sk) and tobacco. She did not give any estimate as to how much money the tobaco tax would raise.

The budget must now go to parliament where the government has a huge majority. Schmögnerová said the budget should be passed by parliament by the end of March.

"I assume that within a month it will be debated in the parliament and by the end of March it will be approved," Schmögnerová told journalists.

Slovakia has been operating under a provisonal budget for the first quarter of 1999 because the new government, which came to power in October, did not have time to prepare a full year budget immediately after taking power.

Reuters and press reports contributed to this article

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