Although the main budget vote was due to take place Thursday, so much time was taken up by debates about other, linked, draft laws on issues such as tax and excise duty that after 12 hours of action in the chamber the main item on the menu still had not been reached. Consequently the main budget debate and vote was pushed back to Friday – when another marathon session could well ensue.
On Thursday, the Saeima adopted 18 of the 19 bills accompanying next year's budget with the most intense debate about raising excise taxes on alcohol and the VAT rate for fruits and vegetables.
Although in most cases the politicians stuck to the specific topic in the debate, there were times when the discussions wandered into areas only roughly adjacent to relevance. For example, when talking about support for new mothers, some MPs and ministers found it necessary to inform the chamber about how many children they had to boost their credentials on the subject.
Prime Minister Evika Siliņa (New Unity): "I can brag. I have really had 3 children. They were hardly born because there was a large allowance. Children are born when a woman knows that she will have a job, that she will have somewhere let the children go to kindergarten afterwards, that she will have a school, that there will be security in the country."
Raivis Dzintars (National Alliance): "I can't help but brag that I also have three sons. That's why I qualify to address you here."
Ramona Petraviča (Latvia First): "First of all, you probably have to start with how many children. Most of all the speakers have three. I also have three. After that, I look, then those numbers will go up and there will be those who have five. "
Edvards Smiltēns (United List): "Some colleagues tried to scold me. The question is, do I qualify for this discussion, because I have only one son so far? But I hope you will forgive my participation, because I am not 40 yet. I still I hope I can give something to this country."
Friday's session is likely to see more of the same and promises to be another lengthy affair with no fewer than 356 proposals submitted on which deputies will have to vote. It is possible it will spill over into another day, but previous examples suggest that the approach of the weekend generally works to concentrate lawmakers' minds somewhat.
If you would like to follow the debate live, you can do so at the Saeima website: https://live.tiesraides.lv/saeima.lv/live2/2
Next year's budget revenues are planned worth 14.5 billion euros, with expenses of 16.2 billion euros. Compared to this year's budget, the revenues are planned to be about 1.8 billion euros higher, while the expenses are 1.5 billion euros higher.