Ruling coalition targets pensioners with record social package

The €0.5 billion package should contain a 13th pension for seniors, free buses and scrapping of VAT on nappies.

Coalition leaders (l-r): Andrej Danko, Robert Fico and Béla Bugár(Source: TASR)

The ruling coalition is prepared to dish out hundreds of millions of euros to Slovak citizens through a new social package for 2019 and 2020. In late March, it announced another extensive social package. While ruling coalition parties have not agreed on all the measures it should contain, its price tag is estimated at around €500-€600 million.

Sociologists expect that such a large social package may appeal to Slovak voters much more than the spreading of conspiracy theories about protests or Soros as former prime minister Robert Fico has done during the last few weeks.

“The game with Soros and refugees is too general,” said Martin Slosiarik, head of the Focus polling agency, as cited by the Denník N daily. “For example, you have to show concrete refugees. Contrary to this, people can remember pensions or other benefits.”

Fico announced that the government is working on another social package in February. Originally, it should have been ready in mid-March, but the political turmoil caused by the double murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner postponed its introduction.

“We will meet with the finance minister immediately after Easter to speak about a giant social package for the Slovak public,” said Fico on March 2, as noted by Denník N.

Read also:Coalition partners are working on second social package for this year

The measures should be introduced by 2019 because they require a change in legislation.

What might the package contain

Smer wants the package to include a 13th pension equalling one half of an average monthly pension to be paid out in 2018 and 2019. This should amount to about €220 per pensioner, which will cost state coffers more than €220 million.

The biggest ruling party is also pondering scrapping supplementary payments for prescribed medications for seniors as well as the introduction of senior cards enabling discounts on some foods, medications and other services.

A measure that already had the support of the whole coalition in February was the increase in contributions for family members taking care of their dependent relatives to the level of minimum wage.

Smer may also cancel VAT on nappies, child food and other children’s goods and introduce family cards guaranteeing discounts for holidays in Slovakia. Another possible measure includes making buses that transport people to trains free for students and pensioners. Smer’s priority is also the increase of minimum wage.

The priorities of the coalition SNS party includes the increase of wages in the state administration. It also wants to push for an increase in teachers’ wages.

Smer is afraid that once again, SNS will propose scrapping concessionaire fees people pay for listening to the public radio and watching public television, Denník N wrote.

The third coalition party, Most-Híd, will also have its proposals, but it has not introduced them yet.

The ruling coalition parties should introduce their proposals for the measures to each other this week while concrete measures may be known within three weeks.

Fico’s Smer arrived with the first social package during his second term in July 2014. This is their fifth package.

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