Next year's budget faces race against time

On the day that members of the 12th Saeima took their seats for the first time, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma stressed that their most pressing task would be the passing of next year's budget. 

"The acclimatisation period [for new ministers] will be very short. Already this Saturday we will start on the budget," Straujuma told LTV's Rita Panorama morning news show.

"We will be working on the budget at every sitting of the cabinet until the end of the year," she said.

In his address to members of the new parliament Tuesday, President Andris Berzins also stressed the importance of the budget and called on parties to set aside their differences to pass it in a timely manner.

"The well-being of every person in the country depends upon your work here in the Saeima," he said.

On 3 November in its final sitting Straujuma's first cabinet approved amendments to the law 'On the medium-term budgetary framework for 2015, 2016 and 2017' and the 'Law on the State Budget for 2015' setting a schedule for the newly elected Saeima and the Cabinet to pass the 2015 budget by 1 January 2015.

A Cabinet statement issued after the meeting said "it is particularly important to adopt the budget in a timely manner.

"If the draft law 'On the State Budget for 2015' is not accepted by January 1, 2015, it will not be possible to fund those expenses that are required by the regulations, which come into force on 1 January 2015.

"It should be noted that on 1 January 2015, the 2014 state budget law will be lapsed and, by failing to adopt next year's budget to 1 January 2015... the conditions will force local governments to carry out financial equalization."

Preparation of the budget will be doubly challenging with a new face occupying the critical post of Finance Minister with Janis Reirs replacing long-serving Andris Vilks, who was particularly skilled at getting his budgets passed without undue delay.

According to the Cabinet schedule, it will send its final plans to the Saeima for approval on December 10, meaning members of parliament will face a gruelling series of debates to approve it by the end of the year.

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