MPs squeeze extra €9m from budget

Out of the €180 millions-worth of additional budget proposals requested by MPs, the government November 10  supported €9 millions-worth, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said after a government meeting.

''The appetite of MPs was very large, as we received several hundred budget proposals. The total amount of budget proposals we received was worth about €180 million. If we had supported all of these proposals, they would have made up considerably more than the new political initiatives supported by the government,'' the minister said.

Out of these proposals, the government decided to recommend a few worth €9 million, which, according to the minister, were the most sensible ones.

Asked where the government is planning on finding the additional money to finance these proposals, Reizniece-Ozola said that most of the funds have already been planned, but that some will be taken from emergency funds.

Over 360 proposals were submitted for Latvia's draft 2017 budget, 330 proposals for the three-year budget framework and more than 560 proposals for related draft legislation, LETA was told by the Saeima's press service.

As reported, Saeima passed Latvia's draft 2017 budget in the first reading on October 31, projecting budget revenues at €8.066 billion and expenditures at €8.367 billion next year.

As compared to the 2016 budget, revenues are expected to grow by €664 million and expenditures by €681 million next year.

Next year, healthcare funding will be raised by €64 million, according to the draft 2017 budget. The increase is being provided in the context of the planned healthcare system's reform. The extra funding has been secured by reaching an agreement with the European Commission, which has allowed Latvia to expand its budget deficit by 0.1 percent of GDP and spend additional €34.3 million on the health sector.

Latvia's defense budget is set to grow by €98 million in 2017, to 1.7 percent of GDP. Latvia has committed to raising its defense spending to 2 percent of GDP in 2018 and 2019, according to its medium-term budget framework.

Funding for education will rise by €11 million next year, representatives of the Finance Ministry said, adding that €47.2 million would be provided for teachers' wage reform. The Education and Science Ministry is expected to revise its budget to provide €15.7 million of that amount.

Financing for social protection, including pensions and social benefits, will grow by €197 million next year, while budget expenditure on public order and security will increase by €80 million.

An additional €19 million have been earmarked in the draft 2017 budget for demographic measures. They include raising the monthly benefit for fourth and each successive child from €34.14 to €50.07.

The minimum monthly wage will go up to €380 from €370 in 2017.

In accordance with the medium term budget framework, Latvia's budget deficit is planned at 1.1 percent of GDP in 2017, at 1 percent of GDP in 2018 and 0.7 percent of GDP in 2019. Latvia is also planning a fiscal reserve, worth 0.1 percent of GDP, in 2017.

Latvia's economic growth is planned at 3.5 percent in 2017 and 3.4 percent in 2018 and 2019. Employment growth is projected at 0.2 percent in 2017.

The final reading of the draft 2017 budget, the three-year budget framework and the related bills is scheduled for November 23.

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