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Cabinet is preparing post-euro fund for the poor

THE GOVERNMENT is creating a special reserve in next year's budget for low-income people, young families and pensioners, the Pravda daily reported.

THE GOVERNMENT is creating a special reserve in next year's budget for low-income people, young families and pensioners, the Pravda daily reported.

Finance Minister Ján Počiatek said the fund will be distributed if prices increase due to the euro's introduction planned for January 2009. He added that specific amount would be discussed at negotiations this autumn, but said the Sk22 billion figure quoted in the past by Vladimír Mečiar, chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), was too large.

"I'm not suggesting that the launch of the euro will have to be compensated in any way," Prime Minister Robert Fico said on April 21. "But we are ready to help the most underprivileged with measures like a Christmas pension."

The cabinet expects prices to increase because of the euro, as has occurred in other countries that have introduced the European currency. It estimates that a trip to the grocery store that now costs Sk1,000 will climb Sk3-5 after the euro.

"We will introduce all well-proven practices from other countries, like following prices and creating blacklists for violators," Počiatek said. "We will apply pressure to follow the rules."

The Antitrust Office and the Trade Inspectorate will be as vigilant as possible, he said.

"Prices will be pushed up over the long term by the rising prices of oil and food, but not only in Slovakia," Počiatek said. "It will be necessary to differentiate what part of inflation is connected to the euro."

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