Friday, 16 November 2018

Conflict of Interest Rules to Change to Accommodate Finance Minister?

ZAGREB, November 16, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday the media claims that the Conflict of Interest Act was being amended because of him were someone's fabrication and that this law should identify conflict of interest and abuses but not prevent someone who came to the government from the private sector from returning there.

"I, as minister of finance... tomorrow practically couldn't work anywhere in Croatia," Marić said, responding to questions from the press.

The media have recently said that Marić is going to the Adris tourism and insurance group and that, because him, a provision on a year-long cooling period, under which former office holders could not be appointed to supervisory committees and other bodies for one year after the end of their term, is being thrown out of a bill of amendments to the Conflict of Interest Act.

Asked what he meant when he said that he would remain minister "until further notice" but not until the end of his term, Marić said he already answered and that, "as far as I know, I am still minister" and that he was focused on a set of tax laws.

He said the bill was in the remit of the Public Administration Ministry and that a public consultation on it was held over the summer. "I no longer know what stage it's in, but now someone has fabricated this whole story, to connect it with me."

Earlier today, asked by the press why the cooling period provision was thrown out of the bill, Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said nothing was thrown out, that the bill was still being agreed, and that the media calling it Lex Maric was ridiculous.

For more on Croatia’s finance minister, who is often in the media spotlight and no stranger to various controversies, click here.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Set of Tax Changes Presented in Croatian Parliament

ZAGREB, November 15, 2018 - A set of tax changes presented in parliament on Thursday by Finance Minister Zdravko Maric sparked a heated debate, with the opposition and the ruling majority criticising one another. The strongest opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) claimed that the government was increasing salaries for "Prime Minister Plenković' elite."

"These tax changes are inappropriate at this time... While our people are emigrating on a daily basis, the government has decided to raise the net pay for Plenković's elite of some 20,000 people. Those making more than 17,000 kuna a month will now make even more money, while others will get nothing. This is a disaster and we must talk about it," said SDP MP Gordan Maras in response to the finance minister's presentation.

MP Peđa Grbin also joined his party colleague in criticising the government. "Do you think that it is socially more acceptable to help with tax breaks 20,000 people who are already making more than 17,000 kuna net than to support the SDP's proposal to raise the non-taxable portion from 3,800 kuna to 5,000 kuna and help two thirds of Croatian citizens whose salaries range from 3,800 kuna up?" Grbin asked the finance minister.

Minister Marić explained that raising the non-taxable portion would not apply to a vast majority of tax payers. "On the other hand, I have failed to emphasise the fact that income tax revenue is revenue of local and regional self-government units and this would be a great loss for them," Marić said.

Maras then requested a recess. The request was seconded by Ivan Šuker of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

In his introductory remarks, Minister Marić said that the proposed set of nine bills had been submitted for a second reading and that it represented a third round of tax and administrative relief as part of the tax reform which became effective on 1 January 2017.

The bills in question concern Value Added Tax, property sales, excise tax, profit tax, income tax, contributions, fiscalisation of cash transactions, general tax law, and administrative cooperation in taxation.

"In the first round of tax relief, the tax burden was reduced by a total of 2.3 billion kuna, and in the second round by 1.3 billion kuna. In the present bill we propose a further tax reduction of 3 billion kuna, which will bring the total tax reduction over three years to 6.6 billion kuna," Marić said.

Speaking of the most important changes proposed by the bills, Marić said that the VAT rate of 13% would be extended to include fresh or chilled meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, eggs, live animal deliveries, and children's diapers.

The VAT rate of 5% would apply to all medicines, regardless of whether they are prescription or non-prescription medicines, while the VAT rate of 13% would apply to services and copyright-related rights of writers, composers and performing artists.

Under the income tax bill, a person would qualify as a tax dependent if their annual income does not exceed 15,000 kuna (2,000 euro).

After adoption, the proposed bills are expected to go into force on 1 January 2019. Marić said that additional modifications would be made as part of secondary legislation, including those relating to the taxation of tobacco and tobacco products, a special tax on motor vehicles, and income tax rules.

The income tax rules are under public consultation and need to be adjusted to the existing labour legislation. Marić said that the plan was to increase the annual amount of non-taxable receipts from 2,500 kuna to 7,500 kuna (1,000 euro).

For more on Croatian taxes, click here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Finance Minister Denies He Is Leaving Government to Take Over Adris

ZAGREB, November 12, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić refuted on Monday media allegations that he would resign and become an executive in the private Adris Group which specialises in tourism, insurance, healthy food and real estate.

Asked by reporters while he was coming to a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leadership at the party's main office in Zagreb on Monday afternoon, if it was true that he would leave the government to join Adris, Marić said that he remained a member of the cabinet and that he did not know who had disseminated such news and why.

"There are no talks or negotiations with anybody. I am doing my job as the finance minister," Marić said. "As far as I know, I am still the finance minister," he added.

He went on to say that he was focused on the coming parliamentary debates on a set of final bills on taxes and budget documents which the government forwarded to the legislature last week.

The Pula-based Glas Istre daily reported on Monday that according to unofficial information, Marić would continue his professional career at the Rovinj-headquartered Adris Group in early 2019.

Adris is one of the most porminent business groups in Croatia and owns a series of companies, including the Maista tourism group.

For more on Croatian tourism, click here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

2019 Budget Presented, Higher Expenditures for Healthcare and Education

ZAGREB, November 9, 2018 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday expenditures would not be increased in a 2018 budget revision thanks to positive macroeconomic trends, while the 2019 draft budget, based on 2.9% economic growth, was rational and good.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Plenković reiterated that he was glad the European Commission had revised upwards its forecast of Croatia's economic growth this year, from 2.6 to 2.8%. He said the government's and the Commission's forecasts converged and that this was a result of the predictability of what the government has been doing over the past two years, including adhering to the limits defined in economic and fiscal policy guidelines.

Plenković said this year's macroeconomic trends had a positive effect on budgetary revenues as revenues from VAT tax, contributions, excises and income tax were higher than planned. "All these indicators are good and positive, which is why this year we can propose a revised budget which doesn't increase expenditures."

He underlined that enforced state guarantees for the ailing Uljanik shipbuilding group would burden the state coffers"with what we, perhaps, didn't count on."

He recalled that the budget recorded a 1.6 billion kuna surplus in the first half of this year, saying the trend continued and that he had told ministers he expected of all "a very restrictive policy in the next six weeks" so that the budget could remain balanced by year's end. "That's certainly our goal, considering that the guarantees we will have to pay are mostly guarantees issued by previous governments, notably from September to November 2015."

Speaking of reallocation within the revised 2018 budget, Plenković said the health sector would receive 400 million kuna, 230 million kuna would go for pension indexation, culture, construction, science, the judiciary and regional development, and funds would also be reallocated to the Interior Ministry for migration, and for the population policy. "It seems to me that, with this budget revision, we achieved what we could at this moment and what was useful," he said, adding that this year's budget deficit was expected to be 2 billion kuna or 0.5% of GDP, exactly as the government predicted.

He asked the ministers to make additional efforts and continue the positive trend despite the Uljanik situation, saying it was crucial for achieving key economic policy goals, including reducing the public debt-to-GDP ratio, which he hopes will be 75% by year's end, despite Uljanik.

In connection with the 2019 draft budget, Plenković said that the document was based on a projection of the country's economic growth of 2.9% next year, and the gap is set to be 0.4% of GDP.

The draft budget revenues are expected to be 136.1 billion kuna, rising 5.5% in comparison to the original draft budget for 2018. The budget expenditures are expected to be 140.3 billion kuna, increasing by 6.9 billion kuna compared to the original draft budget for 2018.

Plenković expects the revenue side to be based on economic growth as well as the third round of a tax reform.

The expenditure side depends on the strengthening of fiscal sustainability. "We want to implement those measures essential to encourage development, in parallel to taking care of the needs of all layers of the population. Thus, this budget has a dimension of social solidarity as we want to achieve social cohesion," the premier said.

"The draft budget is rational, good and conducive to our efforts to achieve the priorities of our programme. We are dedicated to fiscal consolidation and we want to send a strong message that we are the government that knows which course should be taken and we know how to plan," Plenković said.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak expressed satisfaction with a rise of about half a billion kuna (67.5 million euro) in the budget allocation for her ministry in 2019, explaining that the rising funds follow the reform processes such as the ongoing curriculum reform.

The minister recalled that her department had launched ambitious reforms which were now being financed from the state budget. "Without investments in science and R&D, we could be left on the wrong side of an iron curtain that is falling between those who base their economies on innovations and those who still do that in a traditional way," Divjak said.

She said that there would be no 3% increase for teachers' salaries but the ministry "has set aside funds for awarding those who have worked better and more but have not been appropriately remunerated to date."

Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević also expressed satisfaction with the planned higher budget allocation for his department, explaining that this would help efforts to digitise public administration.

For more on Croatia’s budget issues, click here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Zdravko Maric Unenthusiastic About Martina Dalic's Agrokor Book

In case you didn't know, Martina Dalic, the former deputy prime minister who spent a long time at Andrej Plenkovic's side, left her position earlier this year amid not only the Hotmail affair, in which she was sending highly sensitive emails via no less than Hotmail, but amid growing suspicion surrounding her in regard to the very messy Agrokor affair.

Now, despite the public's general opinion of her being less than sparkling and with all sorts of unsavoury suspicions and accusations about her involvement in Agrokor still flying around, left unanswered, Martina Dalic went ahead and published a book on Agrokor, causing raised eyebrows among many politicians, including MOST's leader Bozo Petrov, who was heavily involved in the Agrokor situation when it first came to light, especially given the fact that the crisis saw the former HDZ-MOST coalition collapse.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Tomislav Pili writes on the 30th of October, 2018, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who felt the very personal unpleasantness of the Agrokor crisis on his own skin, stated quite bluntly that he didn't have any desire to comment on whether or not Martina Dalic should return to the government at all.

Marić used to work for Agrokor before taking up his position within the Croatian Government, this caused a lot of suspicion around him, too, as many across the political spectrum and in the general public failed to believe that he had no knowledge of the plethora of underhand deals and the threatening collapse of the company that eventually raised its ugly head in the spring of 2017. Despite the controversy, Maric stuck to his guns and held onto his position, with the situation eventually blowing over. Despite that, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he'd prefer to avoid discussing Martina Dalic or her new book.

"I've got a good relationship with all the people I've worked with and am working with now, and if we have some disagreement, then we find a common language," the finance minister said briefly.

''I haven't read Martina Dalic's book and I don't know if I'll manage to,'' Maric added at the margins of Poslovni Dnevnik's conference. In response to a journalist's question as to whether everything worked well in regard to Agrokor's extraordinary administration, and why Martina Dalic had to leave, Maric expressed his lack of desire to comment on whether or not she should return to the government.

As for the dangers the Uljanik shipyard situation represents towards public debt, Maric said Uljanik's influence will of course have an effect on the overall fiscal policy outcome for this year.

"The only good thing about it is that it will have a one-off effect. From our side, we intend to solve [the situation] as soon as possible so as to avoid any further consequences. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, according to our projections and expectations, public debt will continue to decline,'' Maric emphasised.

"With regard to taking further steps, we can't influence the worsening global environment that much, but do we have certain mechanisms in our hands. I, as finance minister, am responsible for implementing fiscal policy. All we propose is a responsible, rational fiscal policy that suits all of the challenges we're facing. We're putting emphasis on a more stable public debt, but the basic idea of us all should be ​​economic growth, which will lead to stronger employment growth,'' Maric noted.

Journalists present at the conference in were also very interested in the disappearance of the so-called "mantra" about budget savings which has been being talking about a lot over recent years.

"I wouldn't say that is stopped. If you look at the structure of the expenditure side of the budget, the biggest item is the retirement expenditure. It's true that the issue of expenditure has been challenged more than once and we must not give up on that. We reduced interest costs by over two billion kuna, but we're still paying too much,'' Maric said.

Regarding retirement, the question of whether or not retirement benefits in the new Law on Croatian Defenders represent a budgetary burden arose, to which Maric responded that his ministry had looked into potential financial implications during the process of the adoption of the naw Law on Croatian Defenders.

"The Law on Croatian Defenders is fiscally viable and isn't an additional burden for the budget," Maric concluded.

Want to find out more about what exactly happened within Agrokor and learn more about Martina Dalic's role within it all? Click here and follow the news on Dalić, the Hotmail affair, the writing of Lex Agrokor, and more.


Click here for the original article by Tomislav Pili for Poslovni Dnevnik

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

7.5 Billion Kuna in State Guarantees Given to Uljanik

ZAGREB, October 24, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told a government session on Wednesday that in the period from 2010 to September 2018 the government had issued 7.5 billion kuna worth of guarantees for the Uljanik shipbuilding group, of which 4.29 billion kuna had been activated, while the government said that all contracts on the construction of vessels to which the state collateral referred would be checked together with prosecutors.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Uljanik Crisis to Cost Taxpayers Billions

ZAGREB, October 17, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday that the activation of a state guarantee for the Pula-based Uljanik shipyard would undoubtedly have an impact on state finances and that it would amount to 2.5 billion kuna by the end of 2018, with the shipyard's total debt amounting to 4.25 billion kuna.

Friday, 12 October 2018

2019 Budget Expected to Bring New Tax Cuts

ZAGREB, October 12, 2018 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Friday that the preparation of next year's budget was going well and that the government was likely to discuss a proposed budget revision and a 2019 budget draft in mid-November.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Measures Planned to Prevent Car Price Hike

ZAGREB, October 4, 2018 - The government will do everything to find a solution which would prevent price hikes of new vehicles as of 2019 that could be caused by new, stricter standards for measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Youth Prints Fake Money, Splashes Out on Food and Drink!

When the economic situation isn't going your way, is there a way to redirect it? Maybe. Until you're caught.

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