Slovak Cabinet Pledges to Balance Budget by End of Term in 2020by
Prime Minister Fico pledges to cut taxes for businesses
Government to spend 2 billion euros more on education
The Slovak government agreed on a four-year ruling program seeking to reconcile diverging priorities of former foes that united to avert an early vote and a further rise in support for extremists.
The manifesto envisages tax cuts for corporations and small entrepreneurs while pledging more spending on education and pensions, according to a document approved in the capital Bratislava on Wednesday. Prime Minister Robert Fico’s four-way coalition wants to eliminate corruption and make public spending more effective, which should help the euro-area member balance its budget by 2020. Lawmakers are expected to hold a vote of confidence in the new government on April 18.
“On the first sight, the program is very broad and ambitious, which reflects the wide-ranging priorities of individual coalition parties,” said Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels. “However, implementation of disparate and potentially clashing points - such as cutting taxes, decreasing budget deficit and strengthening the state all at the same time – will likely eventually translate into tensions among the partners.”
The coalition includes Fico’s center-left Smer and Siet, a two-year-old party that criticized his previous cabinet for non-transparent public spending and insufficient funding of schools and health care. The other two members are Most-Hid, mainly representing the Hungarian minority, and the Slovak National Party, whose goal is to build a “strong national state.” The four parties teamed up to prevent a further surge by the far-right People’s Party, which won a 10th of the chamber’s seats following a campaign against immigrants.
Slovakia, which will hold the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency from July, will be a “reliable and predictable” partner of the bloc, the program says. The country, which has filed a lawsuit against EU’s decision to impose mandatory refugee-sharing quotas, will support steps to enforce borders of the Schengen visa-free travel area.
The government plans to raise teachers’ salaries and will consider imposing a special levy on large retailers as well as insurance companies.
“The program maintains the high level of social standards achieved during the previous government,” Fico told journalist after the government meeting. “At the same time we agreed to make it harder for those who don’t want to work and live off the welfare system.”