Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Finance Minister Talks Tax Refund, Euro, Inflation, Health Debt

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - Income tax refunds for 2021 will be paid as of 2 May and 664,000 citizens will receive HRK 1.7 billion in total, while 91,000 citizens have to pay HRK 316 million into the state budget in due taxes, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the press, he said 146,000 of those eligible for a refund were young people and that they would receive HRK 640 million in total.

Marić said the 7.8% inflation the government forecast for this year was the highest in Croatia's recent history.

Earlier today, the government adopted Croatia's convergence programme for 2023-25, which will be sent to Brussels for assessment and is relevant for Croatia's euro area accession.

Marić expects certain information and reports in late May or early Junefrom the European Commission and the European Central Bank, to be followed by the testing of the Maastricht criteria.

He said the inflation growth was not expected to threaten Croatia's accession to the euro area.

Asked if there would be additional anti-inflation measures, Marić said the government was monitoring developments and that action would be taken if necessary and in line with possibilities.

He called on all other actors to stand united so that the slashed VAT rates could have the desired effects in terms of more favourable prices for citizens.

Marić said the current inflationary pressures were much higher than those which might occur with the introduction of the euro. For seven countries which introduced the euro, the effect on inflation was 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points in the first year and it was a one-time effect, he added.

Marić said such increases should not be ignored, so before and after the euro was introduced, prices would be shown in both currencies for a while so that they were not raised without justification.

Asked if the budget deficit forecast for this year, of HRK 13.36 billion or 2.8% of GDP, included additional funds for debts in the health sector, he said some funds would be ensured for that in a budget revision.

He said the revision had not been drawn up yet and that it could be passed in mid-May.

The minister said representatives of drug wholesalers regularly informed him and the minister of health about the debts. "Unfortunately, these debts keep increasing," he said, adding that the health minister and his associates are working on a health reform expected to curb the constant debt growth.

Marić also commented on a Finance Ministry bill that would allow the State Prosecutor's Office, the police, and the customs and tax authorities to access corporate and citizens' bank accounts.

According to the ministry, the bill incorporates the latest EU directive against money laundering, tax evasion and other forms of financial crime.

Marić said that, under the bill, the State Prosecutor's Office and the Interior Ministry first and foremost would have access to the accounts register run by the Financial Agency.

That does not mean they will have access to the amount in the account or transactions, only to basic personal information on the holder, he added, dismissing media claims that the law would give every clerk access to anyone's account.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

First Phase of Healthcare Reform Under Way, Health Minister Says

ZAGREB, 20 April 2022 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Wednesday that the first phase of the healthcare reform was under way and that the reform would provide for a new way of paying for healthcare by taking into account service quality.

The proposal to amend the Healthcare Act and the Mandatory Health Insurance Act will be finished by June and put to public consultation, Beroš said in Parliament in response to Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Andreja Marić who warned about a number of unresolved issues faced by the healthcare system.

The second phase will include the amendment of subsidiary legislation and the adjustment of the network of public health services, he added.

"I know you are impatient, but these changes have been waiting for decades and a time frame of several months is irrelevant," the health minister said.

He said that the reform would provide for a new way of agreeing and paying for healthcare by taking into account service quality.

"So far we have been paying for healthcare in an inadequate way. We have been paying for someone to do that work and from now on we need to start paying for how the work is done," Beroš said.

For more, check out our politics section.