The two Chambers’ joint plenum meeting concluded on Monday the general debate on the draft 2016 budget law, after the Government and the parliamentary groups presented their points of view. Discussions on the budget of each institution resumed later in the evening.
The general debates lasted two hours, the Government, through Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, and the parliamentary groups presenting their points of view on the budget.
Ciolos presented the draft budget before the MPs, stating that the Government he leads “has decided to respect the legal framework adopted by Parliament in 2015 and has included important fiscal relaxation and salary hike measures.”
According to the Prime Minister, the solution “was difficult to agree on in an extremely short period of time,” but it was made possible by hiking the budget deficit to 2.95 per cent as a temporary waiver from the goal assumed and by relocating certain sums from authorising officers.
Referring to projects with real impact, Ciolos said that the Government does not start more than it can finish, adding that avoiding the waste of resources by focusing on a limited number of projects with concrete results was borne in mind.
The debates will end Wednesday, when the final vote on the draft 2016 budget law and on draft the social securities budget law is scheduled.
PM Ciolos: We plan to come up with law on uniform pay and public administration reform package
“The Government has in view drawing up a draft law on the uniform pay in parallel with a law package aimed at enhancing the performance of public administration”, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said on Monday during debates in Parliament on the state budget draft for 2016.
“We took note of the suggestions on the uniform pay and have already announced that the Government plans to come up with a uniform pay law in a package with a draft on reforming aimed at increasing the administrative capacity in the public administration, because we believe that these two things are connected. We need a performance increase in public administration, which cannot only be done through some bills on streamlining it, but we also have to take into account the uniform pay law. Of course, we shall see to what extent and how it is reasonable for this law to be enforced, but I believe it is important that we draw this framework of enhanced administration performance as early as next year,” he said.
At the same time, Dacian Ciolos assured the lawmakers of the Government’s intention to render public funding spending a transparent process.
“I can guarantee you that we are aware that, in the context of a limited budget, especially for investment, transparency in using these funds is essential both from the perspective of the tax-payer’s confidence in the manner in which the budget is used, but also from the Government’s perspective in order to be able to reassign funds from the unspent budgets to the budget chapters that achieve a better budget execution, over the year. This is the Government’s intention, to provide this transparency and to keep track of the public funds spending from these two perspectives. I can assure you that we take full responsibility,” Ciolos underscored.
Referring to the salary increases provided for 2016, the PM pointed out that they won’t produce long-term effects as far as the welfare of the society is concerned if the measure is not also accompanied by investment programmes.
“We are aware that these pay rises decided in this budget will not have a long-term effect on improving the citizens’ welfare, if, in parallel, we don’t come up with programmes supporting investments, and here I am thinking about both public investments and private investments. I believe it is essential that, in the future, when we talk about investment, we no longer think only of what we can do on public funds, the national budget and on European funds, but also of the manner in which we can stimulate the business environment. (…) When we talk of predictability, it is important both from the national budget perspective for its execution and from the business environment perspective for encouraging the local capital to be more active, to stimulate the foreign capital to come and invest in Romania,” Dacian Ciolos added.
In respect to the infrastructure projects, he pointed out that, for the moment, funds have been allotted to those projects provided in the masterplan, those which are being implemented or those which are ready to be implemented.
“However, this doesn’t mean that we shall leave the others aside. We shall focus on the correct preparation of these projects so they can be implemented as soon as possible. There are a few projects of motorways that received no allocations not because they do not represent a priority, but because, according to our estimations, they need to be prepared in 2016 for the execution contracts to be signed and in order to include them in the budget starting with 2017,” the PM concluded.
Gov’t to make decision by year-end on minimum wage in 2016
The Government must make a decision by the end of this year in respect to the situation of the minimum wage, be it on keeping it at the current level or modifying it, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said on Monday upon exiting Parliament’s plenary hall.
“I am aware of the need to balance things between the public sector and the private sector, but, on the other hand, it is important that we do these things in a reasonable manner and taking into account the impact such decisions might have,” Ciolos showed, when asked about the ultimatum the Social Democratic Party (PSD) gave the Government concerning the minimum wage in 2016.
In context, he pointed out the importance of the discussion on this topic with the members of the tripartite committee, mentioning that he already had a meeting with the trade unions and agreed on a calendar with them.
“I had a first meeting with the trade unions and we agreed on a calendar, on Friday we shall have a first informal discussion on several assessments the Finance Ministry and the Labour Ministry are preparing. Therefore, this discussion will take place on Friday, together with Labour Ministry and Finance Ministry representatives, the Employers’ Associations and the Trade Unions, and at the beginning of next week we shall formally convene the tripartite committee which should be capable to make these decisions. Based on the assessments prepared, starting from here, we are aware that one way or another the Government must make a decision by the end of this year in respect to the minimum wage, be it on keeping it at the current level or on modifying it,” the Prime Minister maintained.
He added that the decision on the minimum wage will have to be made based on these assessments.
“To be honest and direct, I am not only concerned with the impact on the state budget, which is at a minimum after the public servants’ salaries have already been raised by 10 percent, there are also economic sectors that don’t work on the minimum wage level and I had some informal contacts with certain representatives of the business environment. However, we have on the other hand a few sectors that are workforce-intensive, which already have fragile profit and this is where I think we must take a careful look and see what the impact of certain decisions on these sectors might be,” Ciolos pointed out.
PSD to vote in favour of draft 2016 budget law: This is second vote of confidence for Ciolos
PSD will vote in favour of the draft 2016 budget law, Social Democrat lawmaker Viorel Stefan announced on Monday at the debates, stating that this gesture could be interpreted as a second vote of confidence offered to the Ciolos Government, after its swearing in.
“Our parliamentary groups will vote in favour of the draft 2016 budget law as it was amended and slightly modified by the special commissions’ report. In our opinion, this would be the second vote of confidence for the Government,” Viorel Stefa, Chairman of the Lower Chamber’s Budget-Finances Commission, stated.
The Social-Democrat stated that an overturn of the state budget in Parliament would be the equivalent of a vote of no-confidence, something that PSD does not want “in this context.” However, Viorel Stefan stated that there are also budget elements where there are problems, especially in the case of key domains.
Nicolaescu: PNL will vote budget, but won’t compromise on certain principles
The National Liberal Party (PNL) will vote for the 2016 budget, but it will never compromise on certain principles that include the budget sustainability and transparency, Liberal Lower House floor leader Eugen Nicolaescu said on Monday.
“PNL will vote for this budget, but Mr Prime Minister and the ministers must know that we will never compromise on the following principles: budget sustainability, predictability, transparency and measures taken to stimulate qualitative economic growth, which is not triggered just by context factors. Even if we support you in Parliament, we promise once more that we shall be the most objective critics of the Ciolos Cabinet’s policy,” Nicolaescu said at the general debates in Parliament on the budget.
He added that the debate on Monday in the joint Parliament plenary sitting concerns a draft law “drawn up based on a major compromise this government is forced to make, given that it had to build the budget based on imposed conditions.”
Nicolaescu mentioned that the PNL has major expectations in respect to the change in the manner of drawing up and implementing the budget policy in Romania, because the way public money is being distributed must be reformed.
Adrian Merka: Minorities’ group will support 2016 state budget
The parliamentary group of the national minorities will support the state budget for 2016, deputy Adrian Merka announced on Monday during the general debates in the joint plenary session of the Senate and the Deputies’ Chamber.
“It is important that this budget isn’t a recession one, but one providing predictability and economic stability, a consolidation of the economic growth to be also felt next year, mostly in the citizens’ pockets. The national minorities’ parliamentary group has supported this budget in the committees and will continue to endorse it in the joint session,” Adrian Merka said.
ALDE, UDMR yet to take a decision on how to vote
ALDE Senator Varujan Vosganian stated that ALDE’s groups will announce their voting option on Wednesday, after the debates on the draft budget law are completed, thus giving the Government “a presumption of good will.”
“ALDE once again confirms its role as opposition party, unfortunately as the only opposition party in Parliament. Through what we are doing now we are defining this concept of reasonable opposition, which means that you are not against [something] at all costs, fervently, but that your attitude of opposition is thoroughly based on arguments. (…) Precisely in virtue of reasonable opposition we will not say now what our vote will be. We leave this presumption of good will to the Government. Our colleagues will present a series of amendments during the debates. (…) That is why, at the end of the debates, we will have a political point of view concerning our voting option,” Vosganian said on Monday.
Lower Chamber lawmaker Daniel Fenechiu (National Democrat parliamentary group) also announced that the members of his group are yet to take a decision concerning the way they will vote on the draft 2016 budget law.
Likewise, UDMR MP Erdei Doloczki Istvan claims that the draft 2016 budget law proposed by an atypical Government has been drafted hastily, “with the good and the bad,” this being the reason why UDMR’s parliamentary groups are yet to take a decision on how they will vote on the draft law.