Parties respond to questions on economic recovery, refugee crisis

The coalitions and political parties which, according to public opinion polls, have the biggest chances of being elected to parliament, are agreed that economic recovery is imperative for solving the burning issues in Croatia and that the refugee crisis must be solved in Syria, but have different views of the pension system.

Hina forwarded the same questions to the coalitions and parties running in Sunday's parliamentary election and received their answers in writing.

As for the future of the second pension insurance pillar, the two biggest coalitions, the HDZ's Patriotic Coalition and the SDP's Croatia Is Growing coalition, believe that the outlays for the second pillar should be increased. The SDP (Social Democratic Party) says the increase should not be borne by workers, while the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) says that as of 2017 it will increase the contribution to the second pillar by one percent annually to ensure appropriate pensions. The HDZ says it will also increase the limit of pension funds' investments in domestic government bonds to 50%.

MOST (Bridge) too says the outlays for the second pillar should be increased to ensure appropriate pensions, while Milan Bandic's Work and Solidarity Coalition says the second pillar has not justified its existence because of an undeveloped market of low and medium risk capital.

The SDP- and HDZ-led coalitions plan to introduce a national or social pension for citizens with no income. Bandic supports this, while MOST believes such a pension is unfeasible at the moment.

MOST agrees that the government must have a mechanism that will not allow anyone to remain without any income, but believes this is impossible without a uniform and transparent system and that the budget would not be able to withstand such a mechanism without economic recovery.

Bandic's coalition blames the government for the poor status of pensioners, saying it has the duty to introduce a national minimum pension which should not be lower than the minimum wage.

All parties say Croatia needs an efficient public administration. The SDP says that, according to business sentiment, Croatia has been ranked the best in the European Union for months. The HDZ, on the other hand, says public administration in Croatia, according to international standards, is inefficient and that the problem is not the number of staff but poor organisation.

MOST says the biggest problem in public organisation is high politicization and inefficiency. MOST, Bandic and the HDZ are in favour of evaluating employee performance.

The HDZ and the SDP do not consider reducing the present number of counties as an option. The HDZ says the counties should take on more powers and be the generators of local and regional development, alongside the development of cities and municipalities.

MOST says Croatia has too many counties with a too small fiscal capacity. It advocates establishing three to five strong regions, each with at least 500,000 inhabitants, and reducing the number of municipalities.

Bandic's coalition says Croatia does not have too many counties but is excessively centralised. It is in favour of reinstating the upper house of parliament.

The parties believe high unemployment and low employment are a burning economic issue and that the only solution is economic growth in order to reduce public debt and the deficit.

The SDP recalls that Croatia is in the Excessive Deficit Procedure and that the government has defined convergence and reform programmes agreed with the European Commission. Thanks to fiscal consolidation measures, the government will start generating a primary surplus, which will help to reduce public debt, the party says.

The SDP has announced tax breaks to boost investment and economic growth, restrictions to the use of state guarantees for public enterprises, and the adoption of a new public debt management strategy.

The HDZ too plans to reduce public debt with high growth rates, also announcing the prevention of the grey economy and tax evasion, a structural reform of budgetary expenditures, a more efficient judiciary and a more modern state administration. The party is confident that these measures will kickstart growth which will make it possible to eliminate the excessive deficit by the end of 2018 and reduce public debt to below 60% after 2020.

MOST believes that fiscal responsibility, budgetary transparency and rationalisation of local government are key to reducing the deficit, while Bandic's coalition says the solution lays in stimulating production.

The parties are agreed that the refugee crisis which Croatia and Europe are faced with can be solved only in Syria, but believe that Russia's military intervention is futile.

The SDP says that until the sources of the crisis are addressed, Croatia will continue to help the people in need. It considers Russian President Vladimir Putin's campaign in Syria as a futile policy based on divisions left over from the Cold War. "Russia's intervention is not directed at ending the war and solving the humanitarian crisis but at keeping al-Assad and the Ba'athist regime which has been responsible for the deaths of tens and hundreds of thousands of people since the end of the sixties. One thing should be clear: Russia isn't fighting against Islamic State and terrorism, but to preserve a criminal regime. Croatia can't support such a policy. Rather, as part of the European Union, it advocates a solution that will ensure a lasting peace in Syria as well as secular and democratic development in the country."

The HDZ believes the refugee crisis can be solved only in Syria through concerted action by the US, Russia, the EU and Middle East countries.

MOST says that in general it does not support foreign powers' interventions in a state but that the crimes perpetrated by Islamic State against the Syrian and Iraqi peoples make an intervention necessary. As for the refugees passing through Croatia, MOST says their transport should continue as long as Western countries are willing to receive them.

Bandic's coalition says "it's high time Croatia stopped improvising and faced the fact that tens of thousands of people will stay here." Bandic says Croatia should "stop acting as false Samaritans from the Balkans." He says this is not just a humanitarian crisis but a political crisis with the gravest consequences and the government and parliament must adopt strategic positions and a practical policy on how to handle the crisis.

As for the question of who they would form a coalition with after the election, the SDP says their desirable partners are those who "promote and adopt the democratic standards achieved in Croatia," while unacceptable are "blackshirts, those who promote hatred and insist on taking us back to 1941 or 1991 and who can't talk about anything but the past, wars and conflicts."

The HDZ says it is generally not entering into coalitions with either left- or right-wing extremists. The party is confident it will win a comfortable majority in the election and that post-election coalitions will not be necessary.

MOST says they find unacceptable anyone who has taken part in the rule of the "two-headed coalition" over the past 20 years. Bandic's coalition says "neither the left wing nor the right wing are important because neither are either left wing or right wing... We want to cooperate on our reform ideas, which are original, fresh... and radically good."

Last update: Fri, 06/11/2015 - 12:59

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