Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Funds for Reconstruction Not Decreased but Increased, FinMin Tells Lawmakers

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Speaking in the Sabor on Wednesday, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić denied claims by some opposition MPs that allocations for post-earthquake reconstruction had been decreased in the 2022 budget revision was decreasing allocations for reconstruction.

Funds are not being decreased, in fact, they are being increased by about HRK 300 million and the use of funds has been facilitated, Marić told lawmakers during a debate on the state budget revision.

Prior to the formal debate on the budget revision, the opposition made a series of objections to the government's document, saying that funds for healthcare had not been planned well and that funding for reconstruction was being decreased.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin asked why funds for reconstruction were being decreased by more than HRK 100 million.

He recalled that when the budget was adopted the SDP said that the allocation for the health sector had not been planned well and concluded that another budget revision would be necessary in the autumn and possibly a third one by the year's end.

Anka Mrak Taritaš (Glas) said the budget revision was proof that there would be no reconstruction. She said that funds had been increased for the health and defence ministries, which, she said, were headed by the two least successful ministers.

MP: Damage caused by inflation possibly HRK 20 billion

MP Zvonimir Toskot (Bridge) said that his party had calculated that the damage caused by inflation could amount to HRK 15 or even HRK 20 billion and that "nobody is discussing how to compensate for that damage," to be paid by the entire society.

If the cost of corruption of HRK 70 billion is added, we get an amount of HRK 90 billion, which is half the budget, he said.

Željko Sačić (Sovereignists) said that he was unpleasantly surprised that the revision did not allocate more funds to the USKOK anti-corruption office or the state attorney's office to improve their working conditions.

"It seems as though the state has profited in this crisis. The question though is how will citizens and enterprises survive," said MP Ružica Vukovac, noting that the state had collected HRK 1.8 billion more in VAT and HRK 1.9 billion more in contributions on wages.

HDZ group supports budget revision

The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) group supported the government's budget revision proposal.

Grozdana Perić (HDZ) recalled that the start of the year brought new geopolitical problems resulting in problems in energy supply and inflation growth, which was why the government had to deal with additional problems, such as ensuring the sustainability of the health sector, pensions, and help citizens with energy prices.

Ivana Posavec Krivec (Social Democrats) responded by saying that the budget revision was not due to the situation caused by global circumstances but rather due to the government's poor budget planning and the failure to implement crucial reforms.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Finance Minister Says S&P Report Very Positive

ZAGREB, 19 March 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko on Saturday welcomed the affirmation of Croatia's credit rating by the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency.

"In the present circumstances, this is very good news. The report is very positively worded," Marić told a press conference.

Standard & Poor's on Friday affirmed Croatia's credit rating at 'BBB-/A-3' with a stable outlook, noting that the conflict in Ukraine might affect Croatia through weaker global demand, reduced tourism and inflation.

The agency expects the Croatian economy to grow at a stable pace in the next two years despite unfavourable inflation trends and the macroeconomic consequences of the war in Ukraine. The government is expected to remain committed to its reform programme, successfully absorb significant EU financing, and gradually rebuild the fiscal space it lost in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to S&P, the Croatian economy is likely to expand at a rate of 3.7% in 2023 and 3.4% in 2024 and 2025. However, the growth forecast for this year has been revised down from 5.0% to 2.5% because of global geopolitical uncertainties following Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and rising energy and commodity prices.

Marić said that over the next month the government would update the official macroeconomic projections for 2022, including projections for growth and inflation. S&P projected the inflation rate for this year at around 6%.

The growth forecast downgrade is also the consequence of last year's growth, which was above all expectations, and uncertainties related to the direct and indirect effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the finance minister said.

As for inflation, he said that it was expected to continue picking up in the first half of the year, while its movement in the second half would depend on geopolitical developments and energy and food price trends.

Eurozone entry is a positive risk

Marić said he was particularly glad that S&P had recognised the government's efforts to improve the absorption of EU funding as well as its efforts regarding the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

He said that the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan was going very well, adding that everything envisaged under the plan had been fulfilled and that a new tranche of €700 million was expected in June.

S&P said that despite the complex inflationary context Croatia is on track for entry into the eurozone by 2023 and that the government, in line with euro adoption provisions, will reduce its fiscal deficit below the Maastricht reference level of 3% of GDP in 2023-2025.

Marić said that eurozone entry was a positive risk and would help increase the country's credit rating. He said it was very important for the government to maintain its good standing and trust in international financial circles, even as regards the preparation of an international bond issue, adding that the S&P report also contributed to the government's reputation.

Marić revealed that he had presented to S&P the government's package of measures to mitigate the impact of inflationary pressures, worth nearly HRK 5 billion, including a VAT reduction from 13% to 5.0% for a wide range of food products, such as fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.

Asked by the press if he expected further increases in retail prices, he said this was hard to predict, expressing hope that the VAT cut would alleviate further price increases. He noted that retail chains had begun lowering prices even before 1 April, when the government package goes into force, adding that this was good and that it indicated high competition in the retail sector.

Marić said he had met with executives from the 10 leading retail chains in the country. "They expressed their readiness to be as receptive as possible, but noted that they were not the only link in the chain, because there are suppliers as well."

Commenting on media reports that people were increasingly buying certain items, such as cooking oil, Marić said that despite all concerns there was no need to stock up on food.

He said that the government was also working on measures concerning the inflow of Ukrainian refugees. They will be given both institutional and financial support, which will have certain repercussions for fiscal policy, he added.

According to the latest data, over 7,500 Ukrainians displaced by the war in their country have found refuge in Croatia.  

Marić denies co-owner of Jadranka hotel group booked accommodation for him

Responding to questions from the press, Marić denied an article on the Net.hr news website that Krešimir Filipović, co-owner of the Jadranka Group, had book him accommodation for four days at the Bellevue Hotel, owned by Jadranka, in 2019.

"That was the first time I met Mr Filipović. I had not had any direct or indirect contact with him before that, nor are we in regular contact today," Marić said.

He said that all the loans to this company from the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development had been approved long before his term in office, adding that the company was duly meeting all its obligations in that regard.

Net.hr wrote about Jadranka following a complaint by Arsen Mujagić, a civil society activist from Mali Lošinj on the northern Adriatic island of Lošinj, according to which one of Jadranka's owners is a fund owned by Russian citizens who have been placed under EU sanctions. 

Marić said that the Register of Beneficial Owners is public, and that everyone who condemns the Russian aggression on Ukraine agrees that the enforcement of sanctions is inevitable.

Earlier in the day, the Finance Ministry said it was not true that there had been a change of ownership in Jadranka after the article on Net.hr.

On 18 August 2020, Predrag Perenčević and Krešimir Filipović were entered in the Register of Beneficial Owners as the beneficial owners of Jadranka d.d. and there have been no changes since, the Finance Ministry said in response to Net.hr.

The Ministry said that Marić had not stayed in a luxury or presidential suite, stressing that the minister had booked the accommodation himself and paid for it.

Responding to the question about its ownership and whether Russians still had stakes in the company, Jadranka said recently that there had been a change of ownership in 2014, when the Zagreb-based Beta Ulaganja company became a full owner of Jadranka Group.

"Croatian citizens Predrag Perenčević and Krešimir Filipović have continually been the ultimate owners of Jadranka Group. Their financial assets and investments are managed by the Investment and Asset Management Company through Beta Ulaganja d.o.o., as entered in the Court Register and the Register of Beneficial Owners," Jadranka said then.

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

FinMin: Euro Introduction Must Not Be Detrimental to Consumers

ZAGREB, 1 March 2022 - After the euro is introduced in Croatia, consumers must not be in a less favourable position than before the common European currency was introduced, Finance Minister Zdravo Marić said at the conference "Croatia as part of the euro area" in Varaždin on Tuesday.

The conference was organised by the Večerjni List daily and the Vindija food processor. Marić said that regardless of the current situation and challenges Croatia is faced with, it has to see the priorities that have been worked on for many years, and one of those is introducing the euro currency. 

Introducing the euro is considered to be positive for the economy and society.

"I consider that Croatia has more benefit from introducing the euro than any possible lack or fault. The changes and adaptations that are required to be implemented need to emphasise and realise all those benefits while fear and faults have to be brought to the least possible measure," said Marić.

Marić recalled that loans and deposits would be converted to the euro automatically on 1 January 2023 while cash would be exchanged without any fee in the first year in commercial banks, the FINA agency and post offices. After that, it will be possible to exchange coins at the Croatian National Bank (HNB) for a period of three years and banknotes for an unlimited time.

Vindija food company CEO Nenad Klepač said that he mostly expected Croatia to benefit from joining the euro area.

"It will contribute to the long-term improvement of living standards for the Croatian population. We see a lot of new opportunities, primarily on the markets of the euro area, in 19 countries with a population of 340 million," said Klepač.

Erste Bank CEO Christoph Schoefboeck said that the introduction of the euro would be exceptionally demanding and expensive for Croatia's banking system and that the one-off cost was estimated at 80-100 million euros. Schoefboeck nevertheless believes that euro introduction will have a positive effect on the Croatian economy and society.

Monday, 17 January 2022

FinMin: All Efforts Should Be Taken to Prevent Unfair and Excessive Prices

ZAGREB, 17 Jan 2022 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Monday called on all stakeholders in the society, including media and major actors in the euro changeover in Croatia, to do their utmost to prevent anyone from using this process to "fish in troubled waters" and charge unfair and excessive prices.

Addressing a news conference at which he, together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Croatian National Bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujčić, outlined a draft act on the introduction of the euro as legal tender in Croatia, Marić underscored the obligation to display prices both in kuna and euro from 5 September through the whole of 2023.

The draft act also envisages some exemptions from this obligation when there are physical limits for such displays or excessive costs. Thus, stands in farmers' markets, newsstands, electronic displays at filling stations, or taximeters will be exempted from this obligation. Also, commodities with prices already printed on them will be sold until stocks last.

However, they are not exempted from issuing invoices and bills both in the kuna and the euro, Marić said.

The authorities today published guidelines for the adjustment of the enterprise sector during the process of switching to the euro.

The guidelines have been prepared by the coordinating committee for the adjustment of the economy and consumer protection, with the economy ministry at its helm.

Undue price rises forbidden

The document highlights the major principle that undue price rises in the euro changeover are forbidden.

Marić admitted that the whole matter had not been regulated by law and called on all actors to join in the fight against any undue price rises.

Fulfilling Maastricht criteria

The minister recalled that Croatia could enter the euro area on 1 January 2023, provided that it fulfilled the convergence criteria, and a final decision on the assessment of Croatia's performance is expected in July 2022.

One of the Maastricht criteria refers to sound and sustainable public finances, which includes trends in the public debt and deficit. Marić said that this was under control and that their reduction was being conducted at an adequate rate.

Also, concerning price stability as a criterion, the inflation rate cannot be more than 1.5 percentage points above the rate of the three best-performing member states.

Marić said that inflation trends should not undermine the entire process.

HNB Governor Vujčić also believes that the convergence criterion about price stability would be met.

The reference value for the inflation rate has never been under the average rate of inflation in the eurozone, Vujčić explained.

Prices of consumer goods and services in Croatia, as measured by the consumer price index, increased by 5.5% in December 2021 compared with December 2020, while in the whole of 2021 they rose by 2.6% year on year, the State Bureau of Statistics (DZS) said today.

Regardless of the acceleration of inflation in recent months, Marić said that Croatia's inflation rate was still rough around the average of the euro area or slightly below this average.

Last Thursday, Marić said that the government had revised its inflation growth projection for this year up to 3.5%, adding that VAT cuts were being considered as part of a set of measures aimed at buffering energy price hikes. Speaking to the press, Marić said then that the government was following developments with price hikes.

He said inflation accelerated in recent months and that its growth in December might exceed 5%, which would be visible at the start of this year.

That prompted the government to revise its projection to 3.5%, up from the 2.5% increase forecast earlier, he added.

The minister said that according to available data and expectations, higher inflation rates were expected in the first months of this year, "after which there should be a convergence to an average 3.5%."

Besides food, the main focus is on energy prices given the price trends of raw materials at the European level, he said, adding that the price of gas for households would be corrected as of 1 April.

He said the government would come up with a package or individual measures aimed at buffering the increase so that living standards were not affected in a major way.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Finance Minister and Bridge Party Leader Test Positive for COVID-19

ZAGREB, 7 Nov 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić has been found to be positive for COVID-19 after undergoing a test at the weekend, the government announced in a press release on Sunday.

Marić underwent a test after a member of his family had developed symptoms of the infection. His test returned positive, after which epidemiologists have ordered him to stay in isolation for ten days.

The minister "is feeling well and for now, he has no symptoms of the COVID-19 disease. He will stay in isolation and perform his duties from home while following orders from his doctor and epidemiologists," the press release said.

Marić, as well as other cabinet ministers, were vaccinated against COVID-19 early this year, and would soon receive a booster dose, following recommendations by the Croatian Public Health Institute, government spokesman Marko Milić said, adding that several cabinet ministers had already received the third dose of vaccine.

Milić appealed to all citizens to get vaccinated if they had not done so yet because the vaccine protects against serious forms of the disease. He also appealed to people who had received their second shot six months ago or longer, especially the elderly or those immunocompromised, to get a booster dose as soon as possible.

He recalled that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević and Labour Minister Josip Aladrović, who had become infected even though they had been vaccinated, had overcome the infection with very mild symptoms.

Also, the opposition Bridge party leader, Božo Petrov, said in an interview with Nova TV on Saturday evening that he was positive for COVID-19. "Two or three days ago I found out I was infected. I had symptoms, I called my doctor and did a PCR test, which showed I was positive," he said.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Independent MP Collects 34 Signatures for No-Confidence Motion Against FinMin

ZAGREB, 15 Oct 2021 - Independent member of parliament Karolina Vidović Krišto said on Friday she had collected signatures of 34 lawmakers for her initiative to launch a no-confidence vote in Finance Minister Zdravko Marić because he had stayed on a yacht owned by a private businessman this summer.

Vidović-Krišto said that she was glad that the initiative was supported by 34 MPs from different ideological groups.

"This is great news for citizens, as the MPs have overcome their partisan frameworks and are fighting for the common good, and that is the fight against corruption," she told a news conference in the parliament.

She said that when it came to the Opposition, only lawmakers from the We Can party and the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) had not signed her petition.

Vidović Krišto accused Marić of serving "the interests of power centres" rather than working for the benefit of Croatian citizens.

The case of Marić staying on a yacht of a businessman grabbed the limelight in mid-August after some media outlets started speculating whether the minister's short travel on a private yacht constituted a conflict of interest.

The minister said then that the yacht was owned by his friend Blaž Pavičić and that Pavičić had not used any tax breaks or a loan from the Croatian development bank (HBOR) and that he had no tax debt written off during Marić's ministerial term.

During today's news conference, Vidović Krišto accused Marić of lying that the businessman concerned had no business deals with the Croatian state.

She criticised Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for his failure to sack Marić over this case, and accused the prime minister of ignoring the Croatian laws, obstructing the Croatian institutions and disenfranchising the Croatians.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić: Only Those That Meet All Criteria Will Get Money From NPOO

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told a press conference on Wednesday that the money from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) would be granted only to those that met all the criteria.

The European Commission on Tuesday disbursed €818 million to Croatia in a pre-financing payment under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RFF), which is equivalent to 13% of the country's total financial allocation under the RRF.

Marić said that the government had agreed the pace of expenditure and implementation of reform and investment measures. He said he expected at least 50 projects to be prepared by the end of the year, adding that they concerned digital transformation and the transition to green transformation in the industrial sector. 

"Who will get these funds will depend on tenders and fulfilment of the criteria," the finance minister said.

He announced tenders for the construction of kindergartens and schools, and said that individual projects, such as development of autonomous vehicles by the Rimac company, were also important.

Before the end of this year or early next year, there will be additional tenders for the award of grants for energy efficiency and further green transformation, and some of the funds will also go towards post-earthquake reconstruction, he said.

Asked about the possibility of Croatia losing some of the money because of problems with public procurement, Marić said that public procurement must be efficient because "projects are subject to deadlines, and speed and efficiency are the key."

He noted that the Croatian public procurement law is the most complicated in the EU and needs amending.

Asked who can apply for NPOO funding, Marić said that in the context of the manufacturing industry those would be small and medium-sized businesses, notably those that would contribute to green and digital transformation.

"Funds will be disbursed to all those that fulfil the criteria and requirements," he said, adding that funds would also go towards development of the telecommunications network.

"This 13 percent of the allocation has now been paid, the next €700 million will be paid by the middle of next year and a further 700 million by the end of next year. We need to carry out 34 measures until the end of this year. Some have already been implemented, while some have certain risks," Marić said.

"The next tranche will depend on how many measures have been fulfilled. If we fulfil all 34 measures, €700 million will come in, and if we don't, there will be a certain correction to this amount," Marić concluded.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Inflation Should be Taken Very Seriously, Says Financial Minister

ZAGREB, 22 Sept, 2021 - Inflation should be taken very seriously because of the criteria for introducing the euro as well as living standards, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Croatian Radio on Wednesday.

Asked if inflation would threaten Croatia's entry into the eurozone, he said next year's budget deficit would again be within 3%, which would mean that the cost of COVID-19 of over HRK 35 billion would be almost totally a one-off.

The public debt-to-GDP ratio is again decreasing this year already, he added.

He said that inflation, one of the criteria for introducing the euro, had become a topic in recent months and that it must be a maximum 1.5% more or less than in the three member states with the lowest inflation.

Croatia's average inflation is somewhat below the EU average but Greece, Cyprus and Portugal still have very low inflation, which affects the formula for calculating the Maastricht criterion, he added.

But even with those three countries combined, he said, Croatia is still within the criteria for introducing the euro.

He said inflation was, first and foremost, affected by energy prices, oil in particular, and that this was reflected in food and construction material prices.

Speaking of fears of price rises after the introduction of the euro, Marić said that at least six months before it was announced that Croatia was entering the area, prices would have to be displayed in both kuna and euro for a year, perhaps longer.

Although the general VAT rate is not expected to be cut upon accession to the euro area, he did not rule out the possibility of cutting VAT on food.

Marić reiterated that Croatia would receive €25 billion from the EU budget in the next seven years, including €6.3 billion for its National Recovery and Resilience Plan, of which a 13% advance "is arriving in a matter of days."

Marić said he was surprised by the success of the tourism season, notably in July and August, but this month also as the amount of fiscalised receipts in tourism this month so far was up 24% from September 2019.

He announced a 2021 budget revision, alongside preparations for the 2022 budget, for mid-October.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Switching to Euro Will Help Croatia Enjoy Better Credit Rating

ZAGREB, 13 Sept 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Monday that the introduction of the euro as the sole legal tender would impact Croatia's credit rating, and quoted the Fitch agency's presumption that the country's admission to the euro area would raise its credit rating by two notches.

Addressing a meeting of the National Council for the introduction of the Euro as Official Currency in Croatia, which was also attended by the EC Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, Minister Marić recalled that the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic triggered off a rise in the budget gap, and last year the general government deficit amounted to 7.4% of the country's GDP.

This year, it is estimated at 3.8%.

According to the latest estimates, the budget deficit in 2022 will fall to 2.6% of GDP and to 1.9% in 2023, while in 2024 it is projected to be 1.5% of GDP.

Marić recalled that as a consequence of the higher budget deficit, the public debt also rose in 2020 when it reached 88% of GDP.

This year, the public debt is likely to fall by two percentage points to 86.6%, and in 2022, it is expected to be reduced by a further three percentage points.

Marić expects the public debt to be 76.8% of GDP at the end of 2024.

He announced a shift of the focus to inflation, noting that inflation trends were now present worldwide.

Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor, Boris Vujčić, said that Croatia's admission to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) II had brought the country under the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and it also joined the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM).

Concerning the HNB, we are already in the bank union to a large extent. Our experience from participation in the SSM and SRM is good, we have adjusted ourselves to that, Vujčić said.

Commenting on fears of higher prices being triggered off by the euro changeover, the governor pledged the protection of consumers and good communication.

"We are preparing the code of ethics which will be offered to businesses and services to sign, whereby they undertake fair performance during the euro changeover, he explained.

We will introduce monitoring and we will use the best practices of countries that have already converted their national currencies to the euro, he said.

For more, follow our business section.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Financial Minister Zdravko Marić: Overdraft Solution in Days or Weeks Ahead

ZAGREB, 8 Sept, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday a solution to current account overdrafts was expected in the days or weeks ahead and that it remained to be seen if the law would need to be amended.

He was speaking to the press after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's meeting with representatives of banks' management boards, which was also attended by central bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujčić and Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

Marić said the purpose of the meeting was to exchange information and views on current account overdrafts with a view to finding an adequate and satisfactory solution in which, he added, the government emphasised consumer protection.

He said several good proposals crystallised at the meeting, aimed at protecting social sensitivity, fairness, information and transparency as well as at reaching a solution under which authorised overdrafts would again dominate, as they are regulated by law in much more detail, much more clearly and transparently than tacit overdrafts.

The 2010 Consumer Credit Act recognises authorised and tacit overdrafts, but since 2018 the latter have become prevalent, accounting for almost 95% of all overdrafts, Marić said. Tacit overdrafts have been approved for almost 1.8 million consumers and are being exercised by 840,000.

That happened because under a central bank decision from the end of 2017, pursuant to European regulations, the calculation of the effective interest rate includes the fee for having a current account. As a result, authorised overdrafts became less available to lower income citizens and banks switched to tacit overdrafts.

Marić said a solution should be prompt but not rushed and to the benefit of all consumers. He told people living with tacit overdrafts that the government did not intend to nor would support a solution that would result in a drastic cancellation of overdrafts because that would put additional pressure on their everyday lives and livelihoods. "We'll dispel all fears that this instrument will be annulled and disappear."

A solution may be found by changing the decision within the central bank's remit, but if necessary, the law will be adjusted, he said, adding that if the former option was chosen, that would be known in the next few days, and in case of the latter, in the next few weeks. "We are really not talking about months."

The minister said it was necessary to continue to work on people's financial literacy as well as on product transparency.

Vujčić: The goal is that lowest income citizens don't lose current account overdraft option

The central bank governor said that since Croatia was the only country limiting effective interest rate on overdrafts, the inclusion of the current account fee in the rate as of 2018 resulted in the fee "swallowing" interest, primarily on small overdrafts.

He said that, for example, no interest was paid on overdrafts up to HRK 2,000 and a current account fee of HRK 12.

"We have several different regulations which produce such results and that should be put in order, so that for those with the lowest incomes, and consequently overdrafts, those products don't become unprofitable for banks and they start cancelling them."

Vujčić said the point was to return tacit overdrafts under the same regulations that applied to authorised overdrafts, without a certain number of people with the lowest incomes losing the overdraft option in the process.

"That's the point and that's what we'll do," he said, adding that it remained to be agreed on how to do it.

Croatian Banking Association (HUB) director Zdenko Adrović said that representatives of the banking sector spoke at the meeting about practices in other European countries, expressing hope that the new solution would be in line with those practices.

He stressed that there was no cap on the effective interest rate in other countries, so one of the proposals presented was for the cap on the effective interest rate to be removed and a cap on the nominal interest rate to be possibly introduced.

Adrović said that one of the proposals was for costs related to current account overdrafts to be calculated at "a slightly higher minimum amount", but noted that this was a technical solution that still had to be discussed with the HNB.

Asked by reporters how citizens would now be able to trust banks after they had switched their authorised overdrafts to tacit ones, Adrović claimed that everything was done in line with the law and that authorised and tacit overdrafts were two equal products.

He said that he "assumed" that a "vast majority" of citizens had been informed by their banks about tacit overdrafts, but that a large number of citizens, including himself, "relatively rarely" read notices about possible changes.

Marić: No reduction of VAT on food in 2022

Asked is VAT, including on food, would be lowered considering current price hikes, Finance Minister Marić said that the government had already reduced the VAT rate on some food products, including fresh meat and fish, and fruit and vegetables, and that it planned to reduce VAT on all food products during the current term in office.

But that will happen only after the necessary conditions are met, he stressed, noting that currently and in 2022 there was no fiscal room for such a move.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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