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November 15, 2019
POLITICS

Deputy PM Marko voices opposition to 15pc cut in small pensions

Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania leader and Deputy Prime Minister Marko Bela told a press conference yesterday that his party disagrees with the government’s plan to apply a unitary 15 per cent drop in pensions, saying that small retirement benefits should not be affected. “Our firm stance is that we cannot touch the minimum pension and that we have to protect pensioners with low incomes. In other words, we should establish a limit and see what this limit would be, and we would not apply the reduction below this limit because there is a category of pensioners with very small incomes, who would end up in an unbearable situation,” Marko said, quoted by Agerpres.


He added that a progressive drop in pensions should be chosen instead, but admitted that austerity measures are a necessity. “Nobody is denying that at the moment, we are in a difficult situation and we are forced to operate some radical changes to the current budget. In the same time, there are people challenging the solution agreed on with the IMF. I never thought that these drops in salaries or pensions could be avoided, but I think we have the obligation to” offer social protection, Marko said.


He also said that the letter of intent to the IMF, in order to receive the next loan instalment, should be completed and sent as soon as possible. “We’re running out of time. Every day that passes [without sending the letter] is a lost day,” Marko added.


His comments came as on Monday, the Economic and Social Council (CES), consisting of government, unions and employers representatives, failed to reach agreement over the IMF letter, which spells out a 25 per cent budget wage cuts, 15 per cent cuts in pensions and other austerity measures. Since the council’s approval is consultative, the government might choose to ignore it and assume responsibility in Parliament over the measures anyhow. This plan is supported by several Democrat Liberal ministers and Marko as well. The UDMR leader said yesterday that this was the fastest way and an ‘exceptional solution’ in time of crisis. He underlined however that such a decision would have to be preceded by consultations both in the ruling coalition and with the opposition.


Talking about budget expense cuts and restructuring, Marko also said that almost half of current government-run agencies, offices and authorities could be dissolved or merged. “There has been a lot of talk about it but in my opinion, such an essential reduction was never run in our country. (…) I’m not talking about adjustments, but about important, radical changes, if we have the strength to do them,” he said.

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