April 4, 2018 / 11:43 AM / 3 months ago

Slovenian fiscal council warns against pre-election spending

LJUBLJANA, April 4 (Reuters) - The Slovenian Fiscal Council, a body that advises the government on public finances, said on Wednesday parliament should not pass laws that would raise public spending before a general election due in May or June.

Slovenia ended 2017 with a small budget surplus, but the country is still struggling to reduce its public debt, which soared during a financial crisis in 2013 that almost forced it to take an international bailout to support its banks.

Slovenia returned to economic growth a year later, but its public debt is still well above the maximum allowed for European Union members, 60 percent of gross domestic product. Slovenian debt amounted to 73.6 pct of GDP at the end of last year.

“The Fiscal Council advises parliamentary members not to pass laws that would have effect on public finances and have not been included in budget plans,” the Council said in a statement.

It said as many as 24 draft laws due to be debated in parliament in the coming weeks would increase spending if passed.

“If all these laws were passed we estimate ... public spending could increase by about 2 percent of GDP per year,” it sad, adding passing those laws would “be risky to public finance sustainability and unethical”.

Over the past weeks various parties and lawmakers filed a number of draft laws that would increase spending, among them a draft law that would ensure additional pension insurance for firefighters and a draft law that would guarantee public-sector jobs for all soldiers over the age of 45.

Last week, the statistics office reported that Slovenia ended 2017 with a budget surplus for the first time in more than 20 years. The surplus amounted to 0.03 percent of GDP versus a 2016 deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP.

The outgoing centre-left government plans a surplus of 0.4 percent of GDP this year. It expects public debt to fall below 70 percent of GDP.

President Borut Pahor is expected next week to determine the election date. He had said he will most likely choose May 27 or June 3. (Reporting By Marja Novak, editing by Larry King)

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