Sunday, 22 May 2022

Social Policy Minister Set to Strengthen Foster Care, Supported Housing

ZAGREB, 22 May 2022 -  Marin Piletić who became the Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister in late April, has said in an interview for Hina that the priority of the social policy of this Croatian cabinet would be supporting children without adequate parental care.

Piletić said in the interview which Hina published on Sunday that the focus would be on scaling down the institutional accommodation for children and enhance fostering. To this aim, his ministry will launch a nation-wide campaign promoting foster parenting for the aim of child well-being.

The minister presented some statistical data showing progress in adoption and foster care.

Last year, 145 children were adopted, which has been the highest number in a year to date. So far in 2022, 58 children have been adopted.

The registry of prospective adoptive children has recently included 220 children that have met all the criteria for their adoption.

The minister also promised the streamlining of the procedures for foster care and for adoption, and underscored that the overhauling of the social welfare system is aimed at making this system more efficient.

The ministry is going to set up a working group tasked with analysing the state of affairs in  institutionalised homes and in providers of accommodation for beneficiaries of social welfare.

Concrete solutions will soon be defined, said Piletić underscoring the advantages of supported housing. 

Supported housing is typically defined as a housing service where housing, support and/or care services are provided to help people to live as independently as possible.

"Croatia and Europe have opted for the process of deinstitutionalisation, and this completely changes the principles of doing business in social welfare services", said Piletić.

"The process will take some time and the policy of deinstitutionalisation and strengthening social mentoring and other services in social welfare are some of the priorities of this government, and sizeable funds are envisaged for this purpose under the 2027 European Social Fund", he explained.

"We in cooperation with services providers and institutions are defining the best locations for the specialised supported housing and we can expect the employment of necessary staff in the coming period as well as the increase of the capacities in this form of housing", he added.

The minister recalled that the amended law on foster care had additionally strengthened the status of foster carers.

There are 2,500 foster carers, with a half of them caring for children and a half who are caregivers for adults, being eligible to higher allowances under the amended legislation.

"They are also entitled to grants to cushion off the energy price hikes", the minister added.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Croatia Sending Infantry Weapons for Four Brigades in Ukraine

28 February, 2022 - Croatia has decided to grant Ukraine's request for weaponry and will send infantry weapons and protective equipment in the amount sufficient for four brigades, Defence Minister Mario Banožić told the press on Monday.

"We are talking about rifles and machine guns with the calibres requested by the Ukrainian side," said the minister after the government held a meeting at which military aid to Ukraine was discussed.

The value of the weapons is HRK 124 million (€16.5 million).

Croatia also plans to declare up to 10 soldiers for NATO's rapid response force.

Banožić declined to reveal more information about the soldiers for that mission.

He said that the authorities were monitoring the situation in the region, and that following intelligence collected, the protection of military facilities had been raised to a higher level.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

HOK: Government Measures Will Protect Over 200,000 Jobs in Craft Industry

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - The Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts (HOK) said on Wednesday that the government's package of measures for cushioning energy price rises would protect more than 200,000 jobs in the craft industry, but they also said the question was how much prices of products and services could be expected to decrease.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday unveiled an HRK 4.8 billion (€640 million) package of measures aimed at cushioning the impact of rising energy prices, with the measures including a lowered Value Added Tax (VAT) rate on gas supplies and some agricultural products, subsidised gas prices, one-off discounts on energy bills for pension recipients and other measures.

The HOK said the package of measures "is a comprehensive solution that will help the economy and citizens to overcome the crisis".

The Chamber welcomes government efforts to cushion the impact of several times higher energy prices. The unveiled package, they stress, includes HOK's proposals for measures for micro businesses, SMEs and craftspeople. This primarily refers to coupons for gas for which they will be able to obtain via an application to the Croatian Agency for SMEs, Innovation and Investments (Hamag-Bicro), they say.

Farmers will receive subsidies for purchasing artificial fertilisers, they said, and fishermen will receive HRK 50 million in subsidies for cushioning the increase in the price of blue diesel.

"The package of measures for cushioning the energy price rises will protect over 200,000 jobs in the craft industry," HOK underscored.

Noting that the package of measures enters into force on 1 April, HOK said that the question remained to what extent it can be expected that prices of products and services would fall since a large number of tradespeople were already suffering losses due to exponentially higher bills.

For more, check out our politics and business section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Government Measures Comprehensive and Will Buffer Price Hikes, Unions Say

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - Union leaders Mladen Novosel and Krešimir Sever on Wednesday said that the government's measures to cushion energy price hikes are comprehensive and will lead to a milder blow to the wallets of citizens, pensioners, socially vulnerable citizens, as well as entrepreneurs and the economy overall.

President of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) Mladen Novosel said that the unions had met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković just prior to the measures being presented along with representatives of pensioners and the Employers' Association.

Too much left up to "good faith" of those who raised their prices

"The measures are comprehensive, just like the unions had called for. They foresee support for socially vulnerable citizens and enterprises. On the most part, the financial measures are directed at reducing VAT, tax reliefs on electricity, gas and some food products," Novosel told Hina.

He warned that there was a "catch" in the entire story because too much has been left to the "good faith" of those who raised prices, that they might reduce some prices and not increase them any further.

Novosel believes that the government will partially reduce costs for citizens after 1 April, however, those costs that have accumulated due to price rises so far will not be reduced.

"Costs can be reduced only in the next period, perhaps through a lower annual price of electricity for citizens, a somewhat lower price for gas and cushioning additional price increases," he said.

Novosel assessed that a lower VAT on gas and heating to 5% over the next year and then a permanent reduction to 13% is a good move.

"In that period we would expect distributors to reduce the price of gas. The expectation is that gas prices on the global market will stabilise," Novosel added.

President of the Independent Trade Unions of Croatia Krešimir Sever believes that the measures will certainly lead to savings for citizens, pensioners, and entrepreneurs.

"That should all result in a much milder blow than we were afraid of and which occurred in most European countries at the end of last year," Sever said.

He added that reduced VAT on some additional food products is good because it should result in less pressure on household budgets, but there is no guarantee that will in fact occur. "We've seen this before where VAT was reduced but prices did not subsequently fall", said Sever.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Opposition Says Government Measures for Business Sector Belated

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - Opposition MPs on Wednesday welcomed the government's measures to alleviate the impact of rising inflation on citizens, VAT reduction and its aid scheme, but noted that measures for the business sector were insufficient and belated and warned that margins could grow and prices stay the same.

SDP MP and former finance minister Boris Lalovac welcomed the scheme, noting that it was comprehensive and generous.

"These measures will definitely alleviate the impact of inflation, the market will stabilise and there are instruments to alleviate emergency situations," he said, adding that it would be good if the government introduced price monitoring to establish if VAT reduction had actually helped reduce prices of products for citizens.

Stephen Nikola Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said that the government should have reacted sooner, that its measures were welcome but few and belated.

Marijan Pavliček of the Croatian Sovereignists said that the government's measures were partially good but belated and that more attention should be given to farmers given that prices of their production materials "have gone up by 400%".

Romana Nikolić of the Social Democrats, too, believes the government's measures are belated and partially misdirected.

She recalled that her party group had proposed reducing the VAT rate on electricity and gas and raising the non-taxable income from HRK 3,800 to 5,000, which would result in a HRK 300 increase in all wages. Reducing VAT on food can result in an increase in trade margins while prices will remain the same, she warned.

Anka Mrak Taritaš (GLAS) said the government's measures for households were good and fair, but that those for the business sector were not sufficient and were belated.

"The government should accept the Opposition's proposals and reduce the price of labour to help the business sector," she said.

Zvonimir Troskot of the Bridge party believes the measures are belated but he welcomes the reduction of VAT and the redirecting of social transfers from the Energy Efficiency Fund.

He pointed to a lack of a long-term energy policy.

Sandra Benčić of We Can! said that the measures exceeded the expectations.

"I believe the social package is good, that it covers a broad group of people, which is good. It is good that all households will receive payments for heating, gas and electricity costs," she said, adding that subsidies for the business sector should have been higher.

She also welcomed the reduction of VAT but warned that without control mechanisms for extra profit from margins, citizens would possibly not feel the lowering of prices.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Croatian Government Unveils €640 Million Support Package to Cushion Energy Price Rises

ZAGREB, 16 Feb 2022 - The Croatian government on Wednesday launched an HRK 4.8 billion (€640 million) package of measures aimed at shielding consumers from rising energy prices.

The package includes the capping of the growth of electricity prices to 9.6% and the growth in prices of gas to 20%.

Furthermore, the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate on gas supplies and some agricultural products will be lowered.

The package also provides a rebate on domestic energy bills.

Unveiling the set of measures, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that the package had been prepared in a systematic manner, and is "timely and all-encompassing".

The package contains the measures targeting households, businesses and agricultural producers, Plenković said adding that the state-run Croatian power provider HEP will also bear a part of the burden to address the rising electricity prices.

The measures encompass tax reduction, subsidies for citizens at risk of energy poverty, and one-off discounts on energy bills for pension recipients, while businesses, farms and fisheries will be entitled to subsidies to cope with the rising energy costs.

Cap for electricity paid to make HRK 460 million disposable to households

The caps on the rise in prices of electricity will make HRK 460 million disposable to households.

The subsidies for households using gas will include HRK 0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

The support will be provided to micro businesses and SMEs with the average annual consumption of gas up to 10 gigawatt-hour, and the discount will be HRK 0.15 per kWh.

The VAT rate on gas and heating energy will be lowered from 25% to 13%, the same VAT already applied on power. The lower VAT is a permanent measure.

VAT will additionally be reduced to 5% on gas as a temporary measure, in place from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

VAT to be reduced on some food in bid to tackle rising cost of living for households

The VAT rates of 13% will be reduced to 5% for fresh meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, cooking oils, and baby food and the the standard 25% VAT rate will be slashed to 5% on some items in the agricultural production (fertilisers, plants etc.).

The package aimed at tackling rising costs of living also includes the reduction of the 25% VAT to 13% on feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and sanitary towels.

The coupons for electricity bills for senior citizens at risk of poverty will increase from 200 to 400 kuna a month and will now also be applicable to gas bills.

Pensioners whose monthly income is up to HRK 4,000 will be also entitled to payments between HRK 400 and 1,200 under the the energy support scheme. 

(€1 = HRK 7.523717)

For more, check out our politics and lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

FinMin: Keeping Jobs Is A Priority

ZAGREB, Sept 2, 2020 - Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Wednesday after an inner cabinet meeting that keeping jobs is a priority and that support measures for sectors affected by the coronavirus crisis, such as hospitality and transport, will be made known in the next few days.

Maric made the statement while responding to reporters' questions about the continuation of measures for the hospitality sector, which Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac had announced earlier, saying that they were on the table and being taken care of.

He said that internal consultations were ongoing and recalled that the government had generously financed support for the economy, however, he noted that everything has its fiscal repercussions and fiscal possibilities.

"This year the budget result is not a priority, however, in these circumstances it is necessary to find funds and ensure budget sustainability for this year and the years to come," said Maric.

Keeping jobs is a priority, he said, recalling that the government had presented a shorter working week and that the recently approved SURE program would provide a little more than €1 million in loans for Croatia.

Intensive talks are underway regarding the generous envelope that is part of Europe's recovery plan, Maric said, adding that testing was already underway regarding the use of support in hospitality.

Maric added that he understands the problems faced by the occasional transport sector whose representatives earlier in the day handed out leaflets to lawmakers listing their problems.

We have embarked on horizontal measures and have continued to support tourism and transport and everything will be made known in the next few days, he said. 

Our priority is to keep jobs and we are willing and ready to do the best we can, he added.

Maric explained that there had not been any money in the budget for the first round of support either, however, the money was eventually found and efforts would be made to continue to preserve jobs.

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