Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romania's parlt committees clear 2008 budget draft

BUCHAREST, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Romania's parliamentary budget and finance committees cleared on Wednesday the government's budget plan for 2008, raising social spending in return for cutbacks in investment and administrative costs, deputies said.

Analysts have warned the centrist government would face an uphill battle to get the budget approved by parliament, where the powerful leftist opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) has threatened to block it unless the cabinet backed more social spending.

The government, which agreed the budget draft in October with a consolidated deficit of 2.7 percent of gross domestic product, commands only 20 percent of seats in the legislative assembly.

"There were relatively important changes done to the state budget ... there have been redistribution of funds, cutbacks in protocol and travel expenses ... unused investment money," said Aurel Gubandru, the Chamber of Deputies' finance committee head.

The state and social insurance budgets, which comprise the consolidated plan, still need to pass the two chambers' vote. Several PSD amendments made their way in the draft, including bigger pensions for surviving spouses and rises in scholarships and student aid. Other changes include granting cash compensation to pensioners who do not use up their free train tickets.

Other proposals, such as increasing minimum monthly wages to 640 lei ($266), from the currently agreed 500 lei, or the reduction of the value added tax for staple food, were not included.

"It is likely that the budgets will reach the joint chambers on Tuesday," Gubandru said. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Ron Askew)

No comments: