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Slovenian PM wins confidence vote

15 november 2013, 15:15
Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek won an important confidence vote in parliament early Friday, securing political support for her plan to fix the eurozone country's troubled banking system without outside help, AFP reports.

After a 19-hour debate, parliament voted convincingly to back the government's 2014 budget, to which Bratusek had linked a confidence motion.

"So far we have done everything we could to solve our problems by ourselves and we are on that path," Bratusek told lawmakers after the confidence vote.

"If we continue doing so, by the second half of next year, our economy will start recovering, the number of jobless will fall and our citizens will also soon start feeling the positive effects of our work."

The centre-left Bratusek took office in March seeking to prevent Slovenia becoming the sixth member of the eurozone to need outside help because of problems with its banks, public finances and shrinking economy.

She had urged lawmakers to back her plans ahead of the vote, saying the future of the country's two million people depended on it.

The previous centre-right administration collapsed after premier Janez Jansa lost a vote of confidence in February after only a year in office in the former Yugoslav republic.

Once a model EU newcomer, Slovenia has been on the European Commission's blacklist since last year, and on Wednesday it was again singled out along with Spain as having more serious problems requiring urgent attention.

An EU-supervised "stress test" of the country's largest banks, crushed under a mountain of bad loans, is expected to reveal next month how much money is needed to shore them up and whether Slovenia, in recession since 2011, can fix it by itself.

On Thursday Jansa, now the opposition leader, criticised the budget as "unrealistic" and urged the government to seek the help of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rather than paying a higher rate to raise money on the financial markets.

In all 50 lawmakers out of 81 present at the session voted in favour of the budget, with 31 against.

During the session, lawmakers also discussed a disputed tax on real estate, crucial for the government's plans to reduce budget deficit.

Under the new law, citizens will pay a tax of between 0.15 percent and 0.5 percent a year on their real estate, while owners of companies, factories and farms will also be liable to extra taxes.

The centre-right opposition, farmers' associations and pensioners have strongly criticised the bill and say they will use all legal resources to prevent it being implemented in January.

The government says it needs to cut spending and raise taxes to bring the public deficit down to 3.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2014 from 4.0 percent this year, and to below 3.0 percent in 2015, as required by the European Union.

This does not include the one-time recapitalisation of Slovenia's two largest, state-owned banks, estimated at about 3.4 percent of GDP, and delayed from this year to next due to the ongoing stress tests.

Slovenia is only expected to see a slow recovery in 2015, according to EU and government forecasts.

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