9 January 2012
Prague, Jan 7 (CTK) - The Czech junior government Public Affairs (VV) wants selected state offices, including ministries, to be scrapped or to merge as a condition for it to nod to the planned church restitutions, VV deputies' group head Vit Barta said at a press conference Saturday.
The VV will submit the proposal, aimed to reduce the state spending, at the K9 meeting of the ruling coalition leaders on Monday, Barta said.
"We propose to abolish or possibly merge selected central offices and ministries. This will significantly reduce the state expenditures," said VV chairman Radek John.
If the coalition accepts the proposal, the government can fulfil its economic plans without its steps further afflicting taxpayers, mainly the middle class, John said, probably alluding to the planned property settlement between the state and churches known as church restitutions.
He and Barta would not tell what ministries the VV would like to merge.
John said the VV is ready to undergo the proposed austerity measures itself.
The centrist VV controls the ministries of education, transport and local development.
Its partners in the 15-member centre-right government are the Civic Democrats (ODS) and conservative TOP 09.
According to server Novinky.cz, the VV wants the Local Development Ministry, with Kamil Jankovsky (VV) at the helm, to merge with the Environment Ministry headed by Tomas Chalupa (ODS).
Barta said the VV's proposal is to save two billion crowns the state needs to launch the church restitutions.
VV deputy chairwoman and Deputy PM Karolina Peake said the state would have to reduce the money it spends on the police and prison service, for example, if the restitutions were launched without a previous austerity measure.
Earlier this week, the VV proposed that the paying out of tens of billions of crowns worth of financial compensation to churches under the coalition-approved plan be postponed until after the country's economic situation improves.
The government discussed the issue on Wednesday, but interrupted it over the VV's demand.
A K9 meeting of the coalition leaders, three from each of the three government parties, is to discuss the issue on Monday afternoon.
In late 2011, the government coalition parties agreed with churches on the payment of 59 billion crowns to churches over a period of 30 years starting in 2013. Inflation could raise the sum to 78.9 up to 96.24 billion crowns.
The churches are also to get back 56 percent of the property that was confiscated from them under the communist regime.
The property settlement aims at putting an end to the financing of churches by the state. The transitional period is to last 17 years.
At present the state contributes some 1.5 billion crowns annually to the churches' activities.
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