Vienna, 21.03.2018 Löger's budget: "Embarking on a new future" "New budget-policy era" heralded at presentation to Austrian Parliament of biennial budget for 2018/2019 

Vienna (OTS) - "First of all, the good news: for the first time since 1954, the Austrian federal government will be spending more than it receives. This means an end to the politics of debt. We are now embarking on a new future," declared Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger in the opening words of his first budget address to the Austrian National Assembly on Wednesday.

"We have stepped up in order to change the country. This government has worked hard to achieve this from day one. In 2019, we will achieve a surplus of EUR 541 million. As a result, we will be initiating a new budget-policy era," declared Löger. "Through savings in the system, the state itself will be saving EUR 2.5 billion in order to invest in future-oriented areas such as the family, education, science and security," added Löger. "This federal government is veritably relieving the burden on taxpayers. Thus, we will not be introducing any new or increased taxes, while on the other hand, we are introducing the Family Bonus Plus," explained Löger, who aims on this basis to reduce the tax burden in the direction of 40%.

Promoting benefit

"If we continue to define benefit exclusively as something we obtain because we are allegedly entitled to it, then we are endangering the interests of social solidarity," stressed Löger. "Our understanding of benefit is based on the willingness to provide benefit. This is the basis for creating value added in a society. I therefore wish to thank all Austrians who provide benefit to themselves and our society through their industry, hard work and dedication," continued Löger. "On the one hand, we are supporting those who are not in a position to actively provide benefit. On the other hand, we are providing incentives such that those with the capacity are motivated to make their contribution to society," explained Löger.

Saving within the system

Löger also had some clear words aimed at the opposition: "Without having any knowledge at all of the figures, they have accused me of saving in relation to the poorest of the poor and dismantling the welfare state. None of this is correct: in the budget, in 2018 we will be spending 49.6%, and in 2019 50.7%, on social security, representing an increase of 1.1 percentage points."

He added that this was possible without the addition of any new or increased taxes since savings would be made within the system. Starting in 2018, over the long term, a total of EUR 2.5 billion would be saved. EUR 1 billion alone would come from savings in administration, and a further EUR 1 billion through the stopping of measures introduced by the previous government, such as the Employment Bonus and Action 20,000. The rest would be through savings on building rents, hived-off entities, improvements in the targeting of subsidies, and higher dividends.

Commitment to Europe

"In a time full of dangerous fracture lines, for a small country such as Austria, it is central to our survival to be part of the European Union, the Presidency of which we will be assuming on 1 July," stressed Finance Minister Löger at the beginning of his presentation on Europe. He reiterated the delicate negotiations over Brexit, which would be taking place during the Austrian Presidency: "Here, Austria will have to demonstrate its acknowledged ability as a mediator in order to bring this divorce to an end where both sides are able to save face," declared Löger. Nevertheless, with regard to future net contribution payments, he underlined the clear Austrian standpoint: "We must ensure that the consequences of this separation do not have negative consequences for Austria. For the saving within the system which we are demanding from ourselves is something which we must also implement at EU level."

A common-sense budget

Löger then presented the main points of the budget for the coming years. Here, a particular focus was on families, education, science and research.

Families

Approximately EUR 9.1 billion will be spent in 2018 on Austrian families. "Together with the Family Bonus Plus, families will be a very particular focus of the government's attention," stressed Löger.

Education

Between 2017 and 2022, the budget for education will grow by almost 10%. In real terms this means that, up to 2022, over EUR 800 million more will be spent on education, and the education budget will grow to approximately EUR 9.5 billion. "As a result, we have closed the much-lamented financing gap in education," declared Löger.

Science and research

The government is also making a clear statement in this area too: from 2017 to 2022, spending on science and research will grow by 13.2%, i.e. by just under EUR 600 million over the coming years, to just under EUR 5 billion in 2022. "An additional EUR 1.6 billion for the university budget, EUR 300 million more for the increase in student grants, EUR 41 million for the expansion of technical colleges, EUR 500 million to cover the increase in the research tax credit, and EUR 230 million to promote cutting-edge research," reported Löger, summarising the measures adopted in terms of science and research.

Security

Between 2018 and 2023, EUR 700 million on police training and increasing police numbers as well as EUR 250 million for measures aimed at combating terrorism in 2018 and 2019 alone mean that expenditure on domestic security will increase by 2022 to EUR 2.9 billion.

Asylum and migration

For 2018, EUR 420 million is earmarked in the budget for asylum and migration. "For 2019, this amount will be reduced by EUR 50 million, and by 2022, will fall to EUR 185 million," declared Löger. This was being implemented on the basis of the fall in asylum applications and the prevention of illegal migration.

Employment

"We are continuing to invest over 10% of the annual budget in employment! For 2018, we have budgeted approximately EUR 8.32 billion. The "culling" attributed to us will thus not take place," declared Löger, introducing the topic of employment. The important thing here was to undertake re-scaling, to take advantage of the positive state of the economy and to invest heavily in the areas of qualification and further education, added the Minister. The Austria-wide new rules on minimum safety were also a relevant issue here.

Infrastructure and the economy

"We have introduced a change of paradigm also in the areas of infrastructure and the economy. We understand digitalization to be a great opportunity in respect of which the state has the task of creating the framework conditions of best-possible advantage to the economy. The broadband offensive, the driving forward of e-government and de-bureaucratisation are the three most important pillars," declared Löger.

Pensions

"In 2018, we will be spending EUR 9.6 billion in terms of subsidies to pensions insurance – a figure which is set to increase – as well as EUR 9.2 billion for civil-service pensions, which will increase by 2022 to EUR 10.4 billion. We will be spending a quarter of this budget in 2018 on pensions," stated Löger. He made it clear that this cost dynamic could only be changed through structural measures: "We are therefore taking an initial step, increasing the commencement age for pre-retirement part-time work by two years." These necessary changes are on the one hand for the sake of younger generations, and on the other hand they safeguard the rights of those already retired or who are about to reach pension age. "Here, this common effort is a question of respect for human dignity."

The care system

In 2018 – 2019, we will be increasing the resources available in this area by EUR 322.1 million. "In terms of care provision, we are facing major challenges which have been awaiting a solution for many years. A modern care system fit for purpose which, as a result of increasing life expectancy, must be used by an ever greater number of people, requires a common effort, since we cannot, over the long term, finance a decent care system purely from budgetary resources."

Löger further outlined his plans for the areas of healthcare, agriculture and the environment, the arts and culture, public services and sport, women and young people, as well as the justice system:

Expenditure on healthcare would remain stable for 2018 and 2019 at a level of respectively EUR 1.1 billion.

The upper expenditure limit for agriculture and the environment would be increased to EUR 2.2 billion respectively for 2018 and 2019.

For the arts and culture, EUR 457 million would continue to be earmarked per annum.

The newly-created Ministry of Public Services and Sport would receive an annual budget of respectively over EUR 160 million for 2018 and 2019.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Youth had already been discussed within the framework of easing the burden on families. Investments in preventing violence and increasing the number of care places for victims of violence is also reflected in this budget. Through additional powers, the justice system had been substantially upgraded, and therefore, funding had been adjusted accordingly.

"What matters is Austria"

"No-one can solve every problem in under 100 days, when these problems have built up over many years. But together, we can dare to embark on a new future. What matters is this wonderful country