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“Not perfect, but reasonable” – Levits announces the state budget

On Tuesday, March 21, President Egils Levits announced the 2023 state budget adopted by the Saeima, admitting that it is not perfect, but it has tried to balance the state’s opportunities, needs and wishes in a reasonable way.

State President Egils Levits
State President Egils Levits Photo: Dāvis Doršs, Office of the President of the State

On Tuesday, March 21, President Egils Levits announced the 2023 state budget adopted by the Saeima, admitting that it is not perfect, but it has tried to balance the state’s opportunities, needs and wishes in a reasonable way.

In the statement published in the official publication “Latvijas Vēstnesis”, the President emphasizes that in the 2023 state budget, the government has determined five priority directions – security, education, energy, competitiveness and quality of life, human and public health. In addition, it is historically the biggest budget of Latvia.

The President expresses his satisfaction that the government and the Saeima have been able to agree on priorities in the 2023 budget, which Levits also put forward as essential for the development of Latvia, such as balancing internal and external security funding and increasing funding for scientific activity, higher education and research.

The country’s first person emphasizes that he has received several requests to participate in government and industry debates on the basic principles of budget development and the amount of funding to be allocated to industries. He has also received a request not to announce the budget for 2023 and to submit the relevant laws for a second review.

“Currently, it would not be fair and just to contrast a teacher with a doctor, a police officer with a pensioner, a person with special needs with a Ukrainian refugee, in order to highlight the insufficiency of the allocated budget for a specific area. We all want to live in a better Latvia and it is only possible to achieve this with our cooperation.” says the president.

In his opinion, the negotiations between the government and representatives of various sectors and the agreements reached in them show a mutual desire for a constructive and sustainability-oriented policy. Levits emphasizes that it is important that the agreements reached in these negotiations are also fulfilled in good faith by all involved parties.

Levits emphasizes that currently, the salary schedule for pedagogues has been developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Latvian Education and Science Workers’ Union (LIZDA), but the Cabinet of Ministers has not yet approved it.

He calls on the government not to hesitate and fulfill the agreements reached last year in negotiations with LIZDA. At the same time, the president calls on the trade union to treat the work of the government with a constructive understanding and, in case of the implementation of the agreement reached, to reassess the future planned actions, including the need for a strike.

According to the president, in the field of education, as in any other sector, the issue of teachers’ salaries is not the only issue to be resolved. Levits emphasized that the priority should be the quality and accessibility of schoolchildren’s education. He points out that only well-thought-out reforms, including solving the protracted issue of the school network in cooperation with municipalities, can be the basis for a further review of the funding issue.

Levits notes that health sector organizations have expressed justified concerns that due to unpredictable and insufficient state funding and lack of human resources, access to health care services is significantly hindered for patients.

“I believe that the health sector is one of those that would need complete clarity about the budget available to it over a long period of time. Here, the question of gradually increasing the funding of the health sector to a certain percentage of the gross domestic product, and later – increasing this amount, is being considered. This is exactly “defining the amount of funding is the direct task and responsibility of the government. At the same time, I believe that a professional discussion about the best financing model for the health care system should continue here,” the president says.

In his opinion, the government has opportunities to significantly improve communication with representatives of other sectors and trade unions, in order to avoid misunderstandings and the appearance that the promises made by the government regarding the allocation of funding to sectors are not fulfilled, or that a sector is being forgotten altogether. The President pointed out that Latvia’s budget is not without size, and that is why it is essential to achieve proportionality and justice in the use of the budget and to understand the principles of this use.

“The demands of some individual sector should not lead to a hasty solution – to take away funds from another sector in order to solve the specific problem. This could continue indefinitely. The government, when developing each subsequent budget, must be able to provide an executable offer for the needs of all sectors. The 2023 budget meets these conditions as a minimum is executed,” the President notes.

He also points out that the government should already start active work on developing the next year’s budget. Levits calls on the government to take into account the experience and lessons learned from the development of the 2023 budget. According to the president, although the budget was adopted at the beginning of March, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Saeima must carefully monitor the implementation of the budget and, if necessary, take timely measures to find funding during the year for those sectors whose insufficient funding can cause “difficult to correct consequences”. According to Levitt, this task can be completed this year.

It has already been reported that the Saeima adopted the 2023 state budget and the budget framework for the next three years in the final reading on March 9, after a session lasting about a day. 52 MPs voted for the budget, while 39 parliamentarians were against.

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