PM: budget won’t budge

Structural reforms will be needed before more state budget resources can be allocated to certain sectors, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told LTV news program Rīta Panorāma Tuesday.

Her statement comes the day after a medics’ demonstration tried to shame the government for its inability to implement long-promised health care policy improvements, even as it was hosting Europe’s health ministers’ meeting for Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Responding to the medics’ calls for the long-promised financing to the sector, not least of which is an acute need for higher wages in the health care and social work professions, Straujuma restated the fact that this year’s budget allocations are all planned out and that she sees no way to access additional funding.

She pointed out that next year’s budget planning discussions would begin at the end of May, with spotlights on the priorities of defense, domestic security, health and education. However, she admitted that all of these ministries would still have needs that fall outside what the 2016 budget could possibly cover.

So, in order to be able to spend more, more revenue has to be raised either through tax policy changes, more effective measures against the shadow economy, or structural reforms, she said.

Meanwhile, regarding the special budget for unforeseen circumstances, Straujuma allowed for the possibility of taking away resources from each ministry, should a sudden calamity call for monies beyond current emergency reserve allocations. However, she said that these have also been planned out in advance, and have not been spent yet.

As for what form such an unexpected crisis could take, she suggested “since we escaped spring flooding, God forbid, a terrible storm could hit.”

Last month it was reported that two-thirds of the emergency budget reserves had already been spent during the first quarter alone. The Health and Education ministries both have applied to the government for part of the remaining €12 million from an original budget line of available €36 million of emergency funding.

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