Serbian province aims to settle budget dispute

04/10/2012

Officials in Vojvodina are asking the Constitutional Court to examine Serbian budget law changes.

By Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 04/10/12

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A shepherd leads his sheep across a motorway bridge over the Danube river near Novi Sad, the capital of Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina. [Reuters]

Officials in Serbia's autonomous Vojvodina province have asked the Serbian Constitutional Court to review changes to the nation's budget law that they say will cost the province nearly 80 million euros per year.

The Serbian Constitution guarantees Vojvodina at least 7 percent of the country's budget, but the amendments, adopted September 25th by parliament, call for future allotments to Vojvodina to be calculated as an expenditure funded from tax revenue.

Bojan Pajtic, president of the government of Vojvodina, opposes the change, and said it reduces the base for calculating the province's funds.

"A minimum of 7 percent of Vojvodina's budget should be allocated in relation to the entire budget of Serbia, not only in terms of tax revenues," Pajtic told SETimes.

The Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians tried to pass amendments in the Serbian parliament to halt the changes, but the assembly rejected them.

"The changes to the Law on the Budget System are unconstitutional and a big trap for Vojvodina," Balint Pastor, head of the Alliance, told SETimes.

On September 27th, Pajtic's cabinet asked the Serbian Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the legislative changes.

"Until the decision of the Constitutional Court, the solution could be that [Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic] does not sign the changed Law on the Budget System," Dragoslav Petrovic, deputy prime minister of Vojvodina, said.

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The autonomous province of Vojvodina (shaded in red) has a population of about 2 million. [File]

The budget law changes drew sharp criticism from Istvan Pasztor, president of the assembly of Vojvodina. He called on Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to "curb or replace" Minister of Finance and Economy Mladjan Dinkic.

"Dinkic's behavior is like a ticking time bomb," Pasztor told BETA news agency.

Ministry of Finance State Secretary Vlajko Senic responded to Pasztor's statement by calling for calmer discourse.

"We believe that the manner in which he communicated with us beyond the normal political dialogue, and we want to talk about facts, not listen to unfounded accusations," Senic said.

Dinkic claimed the new method of calculating Vojvodina's budget will increase the province's funding.

Slobodan Maras, a member of the presidency of the United Regions of Serbia, explained that basing Vojvodina's budget on tax revenues will increase funding next year from 6.5 billion euros to 7.1 billion euros.

"The base has been changed due to expected increase in tax revenue," Maras told Belgrade daily Blic.

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Residents of province expressed concern about the budget.

"Vojvodina was, for a very long time, not progressing financially because Belgrade decided on our money, giving us when they want and how they want," said Valentina Varga, a housewife from Novi Sad.

"When there is little money [in the state budget], then all [citizens] have little [money]," said Dusan Zakrov, a retiree from Belgrade.

The State Audit Institution has supported the changes to the Law on the Budget System and the complete package of government measures for fiscal consolidation. The auditors determined that the changes will help launch revenue reform as well as changes to expenditures and budgets.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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