Saeima finally gets stuck into 2019 budget

The first quarter of the year may almost be over, but on March 20 the Saeima finally opened its debate on the 2019 national budget.

A combination of parliamentary elections last October followed by protracted negotiations over the formation of a new government has knocked the budget well back in the schedules - the budget is usually passed in October or November, but on Wednesday the parliamentary debate got underway in earnest.

Prime Minister Krišjanis Kariņš commended it to the house in hope it should be reasonably uncontroversial at this late stage, yet would lay the foundation for more ambitious budget plans in the future.

“We can be a prosperous Nordic country where people live in security and prosperity, happy and satisfied with life. For this to happen, we have to make systemic changes in very many sectors in our country,” Kariņš told lawmakers.

Similarly Finance Minister Jānis Reirs described it as a "technical" budget that maintained Latvia's commitment to spending at least 2% of GDP on defense and prepares the way for key reforms in local government, education and healthcare.

Responding for the opposition Harmony party, Valērijs Agešins pointed out that many pre-election promises from coalition parties on issues such as minimum pensions and wages were notable by their absence.

As previously reported, the budget plan foresees revenue of 9.2 billion euros, and expenditure of 9.4 billion euros.

Following the tabling of amendments by deputies, the final reading and approval of the budget is likely to take place on 3 April.

If you would care to see the budget debate for yourself, you can follow it live at the Saeima website.

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