Czech Finance Minister Sees First Balanced Budget in Two Decades

The Czech Republic may run the first budget without a deficit in two decades this year, Finance Minister Andrej Babis said, underscoring his push to cut the debt load that’s already one of the lowest in Europe.

While public spending typically rises in the last months of the year, ministries may struggle to use up all the funds allotted to them, Babis told reporters on Tuesday. Despite better-than-planned fiscal performance, lawmakers will probably approve a deficit again for next year, the billionaire minister said. The coalition government proposed a 60 billion-koruna shortfall for 2017, which is an election year, compared with the original deficit target of 70 billion koruna for 2016.

“I expect at least a balanced budget, possibly a surplus,” Babis said after a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Luxembourg. “What’s important is we’re going to reduce the debt. My ambition is to become one of the five least-indebted countries in Europe.”

The nation of 10.5 million is improving its public finances as one of the fastest-growing economies and lowest unemployment rates in Europe are boosting tax revenue. The government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has also delayed some investments, including highway construction, and has cracked down on tax evasion to bring in additional funds.

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