STA, 25 November 2020 - Parliament adopted in a 51:11 vote on Wednesday the sixth stimulus package designed to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The legislation extends several existing measures, while a major novelty is help with fixed expenses. The opposition was mainly critical of what it sees as "cuckoos" inserted in the package.
The latest package, valued at around EUR 1 billion, extends once again the furlough scheme, measures to improve liquidity and introduces help with fixed expenses among other things.
Prime Minister Janez Janša and Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj hailed the measures as helping preserve society, the state and the economy in good shape also for the period after the epidemic.
In what is a key novelty that will apply for the last three months of 2020 for the time being, companies with a revenue decline of over 70% will be eligible for compensation equalling 1.2% of their annual income per month; those whose revenue declined by between 30% and 70% will get 0.6% per month.
Šircelj said the criteria were set down in a manner that will allow the reimbursement of fixed expenses in the majority of sectors, while Janša highlighted the increase of the 80% state subsidy for furloughed workers to 100% for smaller companies.
Beyond the immediate aid to businesses, which also includes the extension of the possibility to defer the payment of taxes and loans, the new package brings a waiver of VAT on personal protective and medical equipment, simplified registration of remote work, and bonuses for staff working with Covid-19 patients.
Coalition MP also highlighted other measures, with Suzana Lep Šimenko of the Democrats (SDS) for instance listing the waving of rents for state-owned premises, a warm meal for underprivileged school children, and simplified application for welfare transfers.
Janja Sluga of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) also feels the new package is a fast response to the problems arising in the second wave of the epidemic. "The measures are good, our citizens need them and expect them."
The package was also backed by the opposition National Party (SNS), while the remaining opposition parties reiterated their criticism of legislative changes in the package they feel to be out of place.
"The government has once more drawn up a corona crisis package with cuckoos, which are exclusively about the pursuit of the interests of the largest coalition party," Marko Bandelli of the Alenka Pratušek Party (SAB) said.
While some provisions have been removed from the package - for instance basic income for religious workers and a provision that would have equalised the value of the vocational secondary school-leaving exam with the general secondary-school leaving exam - the opposition highlighted some that is still finds unacceptable.
One of them extends licences for subsidies for private universities even if they do not meet conditions for this at the moment, which the opposition says is geared towards helping one specific university, which is owned by a person with close ties to the SDS.
Another one scraps a three-month transitional period during which a person newly registered as unemployed is not yet obliged to accept a job deemed as appropriate for them by the Employment Service.
Also criticised strongly was the raising of the fine for those violating restrictions to public gatherings. The current fines, which range between 400 and 4,000 euros now, have been raised to EUR 1,200-12,000. The government initially wanted to penalise those inciting to such protest, but the provision was crossed out at committee.
"This is intimidation, terror and presages the end of democracy," Left MP Nataša Sukič said. SD deputy Dejan Židan added that the measure "will not help the epidemic, it will only make people angrier".
Some opposition MPs were also critical of the economic measures, with Brane Golubović of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) saying effective answers have not been found for everybody affected by the crisis. Jani Prednik of the SocDems said the package lacked speed and simplicity and that the partial covering of fixed expanses would not suffice.