2023 budget adopted after Saeima pulls an all-nighter

Take note – story published 1 year ago

The parliamentary debate for the final reading of Latvia's 2023 budget turned into a test of physical and mental endurance after lengthy deliberations among Saeima deputies occupied the hours usually belonging to pillows and duvets.

Working through more than 200 proposed amendments proved extremely time consuming and the hope of Saeima speaker Edvards Smiltēns that things woud be wrapped up by midnight proved wildly optimistic. In fact by midnight deputies had not considered even half of the proposals.

At two o'clock in the morning, a coalition motion proposed slashing the time available to speakers. It was duly passed, but still the minutes and hours ticked by with opposition members sharply criticising stifling of debate with coalition members only rarely participating – which in turn only increased the determination of the opposition to make things as uncomfortable for the government as possible.  

Smiltēns suggested proceedings should be done by five or six in the morning at the latest – but yet again his timekeeping proved wide of the mark. Exhausted members of parliament eventually crept to their beds when the session closed at 08:58 on Thursday, tantalisingly just short of a full 24 hours.

The session on the budget and accompanying bills lasted 23 hours and 56 minutes, smashing the previous record of the longest session in December 2008, which lasted a quickfire 19 hours and 26 minutes. Lengthy budget debates are by no means unprecedented and have almost become a tradition.

The budget was finally adopted by 52 votes to 39.

The marathon debate had the immediate effect of forcing the postponement by a week of the regular Saeima sitting scheduled for Thursday, with deputies unable to face the prospect of starting a brand new session straight off the back of their budgetary all-nighter.

Revenues of the consolidated state budget in 2023 are forecast at 12.7 billion euros, and expenses at 14.7 billion. The budget deficit of the general government this year is planned to be 1.8 billion euros or 4.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

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