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2002 budget tight, 2003 questionable

THE FINANCE Ministry has said the state budget deficit target could be overshot by Sk10-11 billion this year, and said that unless cabinet agrees to cap spending, the 2002 state budget will have to be amended.

However, central bank governor Marián Jusko said the state budget may finally overshoot its deficit target of Sk38 billion by only Sk7 billion. Finance Minister František Hajnovič was even more optimistic, saying there was a chance the target might even be kept, meaning the next parliament formed after September 20-21 elections would not have to quickly amend the 2002 budget law.

Among the budget risks that remain is an expected Sk4 billion overshoot on social benefits spending. However, with the arrival on September 3 of Sk6.1 billion on the account of the central bank as part of a cash settlement of Russia's debt to Slovakia, the cabinet has a Sk4 billion surplus to draw on.

Hajnovič would not say whether the Russian debt money would go towards shoring up public finances or to paying down Slovakia's national debt.

Hajnovič added that while the draft 2003 state budget is almost complete, the nation's next government may not have time to approve it following September 20-21 elections, meaning a provisional budget for early next year.

The draft state budget for 2003 predicts a deficit of Sk38 billion on income of Sk224.1 billion and expenditures of Sk262 billion. Inflation is pegged at 6.3 per cent, GDP growth at 4.2 per cent and unemployment at 18.4 per cent.

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