The money of Latvia’s budget for next year allocated not with the intention to solve problems in priority industries but rather to satisfy desires of certain politicians and their lobby groups has reached an astonishing new peak – EUR 27.9 million, according to estimates, as reported by Ir.
The Saeima has reviewed and approved 368 proposals in relation to the next year’s budget. Members of the parliament agreed to allocate funding for specific projects submitted by deputies or factions. The so-called deputy quotas are basically the division of taxpayers’ money outside the government’s planned budget funds. Decisions made by deputies have no criteria. Because of that, this practice is actively criticized for their non-compliance with good management principles. But this year, Saeima deputies have managed to allocate an unprecedented amount of money as part of those quotas. While discussions in September mentioned amount reaching EUR 2.8 million, the final agreed upon amount turned out ten times larger.
To support deputies’ proposals, Saeima has agreed to provide EUR 27,884,245 from the state budget for 2017 to large infrastructure projects in municipalities to a couple of hundred projects planned by small organizations.
The largest sums of money will be spent financing projects from the three ruling parties – UGF, Unity and the National Alliance. Factions and their politicians have submitted proposals – UGF has submitted projects worth EUR 5.4 million, Unity has submitted projects worth EUR 4.4 million and NA has submitted projects worth a total of EUR 4.4 million of taxpayer money.
As previously reported, independent deputy Artuss Kaimins has expressed his dissatisfaction and shock with the parliament’s approved budget. «I’ve never seen such a robbery as massive as the one that happened tonight,» – Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimins on Thursday, 24 November, after the night the Saeima approved the next year’s budget. According to him, while Latvia’s people were sleeping, the parliament was busy reviewing the new budget, wasting EUR 27 million of taxpayer money in the process.
«I don’t know a word more appropriate than robbery, because it was deputies’ vote-buying before elections. I don’t think taxpayers should buy for publication of a book or street repairs, roof change for churches and the digitization of museum archives. All of its falls in line with deputies’ quotas – EUR 20,000 for each of them,» – Kaimins told Rīta panorama, adding that ‘EUR 10-11 million of the EUR 27 million would end up in Lembergs’ municipality’.
«I asked [Prime Minister Maris] Kucinskis why we’d have to approve the budget at night within 20 hours as though Latvia was in a state of war. I was told that it is a tradition left from the Supreme Council – the communist era, it seems. As long as our country is ruled by former communists – Brigmanis, Lembergs, Reirs, Piebalgs and Ameriks, nothing will change, and people will continue leaving the country,» – Kaimins said.
According to him, the 2017 budget is the coalition’s, not the taxpayers’, budget. In it, the coalition has divided money among themselves to serve their own interests. Kaimins urges residents to pay close attention to and engage in political processes, otherwise «the State Treasury will be brutally robbed in the night. […] It is and aggressive budget built on the shoulders of the country’s taxpayers».
Delna Society for Openness emphasizes that ‘deputy quotas’ primarily serve the purpose of promoting political parties, not public interests. Deputy quotas allow parties to use state resources to bribe voters into supporting them in the upcoming summer elections. Use of state resources to sponsor people close to political parties does not comply with good management principles and priorities listed in the state policy planning documents. This kind of practice should not be taken for granted. It should be condemned and combated, Delna notes.
Especially generous amounts will be allocated to Ventspils, which is managed by the Union of Greens and Farmers. Ventspils will receive EUR 4 million in the 2017 state budget. The money will be allocated for the development of Ventspils Olympic Centre’s infrastructure, Ventspils international radio-astronomy centre’s development project and Ventspils Music School infrastructure development project.
Multi-million infrastructure projects are not considered acute problems the municipality is unable to solve on its own. In addition, Ventspils Music School has already received EUR 15 million funding from the emission allowances auctioning tender, Delna emphasized.