>> House of Representatives on the proposal to limit the extraordinary June valorization of pensions, February 28, 2023, Prague. From left: Minister of Finance Zbyněk Stanjura, Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan, Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka.
Prague – Criticism from the opposition benches and disputes with the government coalition accompany today's debate on whether the House of Representatives should discuss the controversial government proposal to reduce the extraordinary June valorization of pensions in a state of legislative emergency. The opposition disputes this way of discussion and claims that the government had signals about the need for valorization long enough in advance. Since the start of the meeting at 10:00, MPs were able to debate for 3.5 hours only through so-called factual remarks, which are allowed to last no more than two minutes. According to the rules of procedure, a deputy responds to the course of the debate with a factual remark. We present selected statements from this part of the debate, as captured by the parliamentary transcript.
Chairman of the KDU-ČSL club Marek Výborný: “February 10 – I repeat again, it is important because it very often causes misunderstanding – February 10, Friday, I remember it very well, because the Deputy Prime Minister received the figures from the Czech Statistical Office here on table, he's sitting here behind me, and as I watched him, when he saw the numbers and his skin color began to change dramatically and I began to worry about his health, I understood that the numbers were far from what was predicted by all institutions, that means, if we convert it to those numbers, the inflation rate increased by leaps and bounds, and as the Czech Statistical Office reported on February 10, by 8.6 percentage points. That is, dramatically more than was expected.”< /p>
Berenika Peštová (ANO): “I was interested in your speech, Mr. Deputy, through the chairwoman, when you said that the Prime Minister became pale when he saw that amount, or the Deputy Prime Minister became pale. I am surprised that he did not become pale when there in that budget he had zero. I would have done that again.”
Zuzana Ožanová (YES): “When I was preparing, the government equation that I dare to tell me – a pensioner equals economic damage – really came absurd. Please don't justify your incompetence in this way and say it's a legislative emergency.”
Jaroslav Foldyna (SPD): “You simply invented that under the guise of these things today, in a completely different legislative process, you will accept that you will rob Czech pensioners. It is simply sad what is happening in this House. And I believe that one day your children will judge you for this! (Whole speech delivered very loudly).”
Ladislav Okleštěk (YES): “But in November there were already clear signals that high inflation was approaching. None of you those signals didn't even alert you that something was happening? You were surprised and the members of the government went crazy when they learned the numbers from the statistical office. I think that the vast majority of MPs didn't go crazy at all, because they suspected it.”
Milan Brázdil (ANO) to Výborným deputies: “Now you talked about the fact that pensioners will definitely get some less money. Well, they won't. We will make sure that they get what they should get. You are talking here as if everything is already done. Well, nothing is done. It will take a long time. We will try to ensure that pensioners get what they should get.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL): “Those children fell here. Strong emotions, whether the children will thank us or not. I think that it is really necessary to look at the balance of intergenerational solidarity, because those children today they finance the pension system with those social security contributions. They will finance it even if we borrow for it, including interest.”
President of the ANO club Alena Schillerová: “Come to the negotiating table and come and talk about a valorization scheme that would be effective from January 1, 2024, just as we did last year with the valorization of payments for state insurance. You will avoid a huge embarrassment that can probably end up at the Constitutional Court. If they cancel it, you will have to pay the money, including interest, and then you will have to consider whether you even have the right to rule this country.”
Jan Hrnčíř (SPD): “And I just want to say , that comparing pensioners to natural disasters or something like that is complete nonsense, these are the people who built this country, to whom we owe the fact that we are here.”
Patrik Nacher (ANO): “And my basic question is – so we wouldn't have to deal with a legislative emergency – why didn't you submit it in November, December, maybe at the beginning of January. That's the basic thing. I don't question the need to open debate about the valorization mechanism. I question that you are doing it in a state of legislative emergency. And I will answer that because it was a rhetorical question. Well, because it was a presidential election. You just didn't want to open it up.”
< p>Deputy Speaker of the House Jan Skopeček (ODS): “I also approach the debate on pensions in the sense that I, in turn, do not want my children to blame me for not having money for their pensions, because we are at a time when we had something to do with it to do, they didn't do anything. But I believe that each of us, whether from the SPD, from the ANO movement, from the People's Party, from the ODS, we raise children as best we can so that they are not ashamed of us. Please, let's not use these sentences. It doesn't belong here. It diminishes the political culture.”
Richard Brabec (ANO): “For me, I think that the whole nation should be shocked by the kind of finance minister we have, who, either out of ignorance, inability to estimate, or even from that calculation, did not put a single crown into the draft budget for the extraordinary valorization. That's what we're talking about here. And now it's flickering.”
Radek Koten (SPD): “Some here also said, my honorable speakers, that the political culture in the Chamber of Deputies should be respected here. Okay, so we have a political culture here that we will deprive pensioners of their valorization? But after all, the inflation here was caused by your government! Your government is taking Czech taxpayers' money out of the Czech Republic, and you just move it from chapter to chapter. And there are no pensioners left.”
Radek Vondráček (ANO): “Here is the problem, that the concept of a state of legislative emergency is being emptied. It is long past the time when the Constitutional Court defined it, you already define it your way, you circumvent it and then others will come and of course others will come after you, this government is not here forever, someone else will come and empty it even more.”
President of the Pirátů club Jakub Michálek: “Overall, the increase in the average pension under this government is a complete record. That's why I don't like that some people continue the rhetoric pitting grandmothers and grandfathers against each other and their daughters and sons on the other side and basically tearing families apart. This is divisive rhetoric that voters rejected in the presidential election.”
President of the TOP 09 club Jan Jakob: “Please, we are now discussing the confirmation of the duration of the state of legislative emergency. Many of the speakers stick to it more, many less. Unfortunately, we are not yet discussing the content of the amendment. So I am asking that we really return to the discussion about the confirmation of the duration state of legislative emergency, and even ideally to give space in that debate not only to ministers within the framework of the facts, who will certainly explain the reasons.”
Tomio Okamura (SPD): “It is quite evident that the government's proposal , with which Fial's government wants to rob all pension recipients of the promised money, does not meet the conditions of a legislative emergency. That is why I am making a proposal to cancel the legislative emergency on behalf of the SPD.”
The government insists on the need to reduce the valuation of pensions, the opposition confirmed the obstruction
According to Minister of Finance Zbyňek Stanjura (ODS), the government is aware of the unpopularity of the reduction of the extraordinary valorization of pensions. But if they don't do it, the costs will be higher every year due to the projection of the increase into other valuations. Already next year, without a reduction, another 60 billion crowns would be spent from the state budget, he said at a press conference before the plenary session of the House of Representatives. The leader of the ANO opposition club, Alena Schillerová, subsequently called on the government to withdraw the proposal. According to her, ANO offers a debate on changing the valuation calculation as of January 1. She confirmed that the opposition will delay the debate on the current proposal as much as possible. ANO MPs will read the amendments, and will also use various procedural options. The SPD will also block negotiations on the “asocial proposal”, confirmed the head of the movement, Tomio Okamura. He has prepared 102 amendments.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) reiterated that after the June increase according to the government's proposal, the ratio of the average pension to the average gross wage will rise above 50 percent. Stanjura added that compared to the net it will be higher than 60 percent.
The opposition has already announced the largest obstruction to date, and MPs are likely to expect night meetings as well. Controversy is also fueled by the fact that the lower house, at the government's request, is supposed to discuss the limitation of pension growth at an accelerated rate in a state of legislative emergency. If the draft is accepted, it will probably end up at the Constitutional Court. The parties of the government coalition have enough votes in the House of Representatives to enforce it. According to Stanjura and Jurečka, the cabinet “honestly tried” after the publication of the inflation rate in January to have a rational debate with the opposition, but it started arguing and threatening the Constitutional Court. “Rational negotiations require two sides,” Stanjura said.
According to Schillerová, the government is acting unconstitutionally in two ways. On the one hand, he wants to save every pensioner an average of 7,000 crowns this year by not proceeding according to the law, and for this he is abusing the state of legislative emergency. “We are also fighting for the rule of law, so that the Constitution of the Czech Republic is respected,” she said. According to her, the conditions for a state of legislative emergency have not been met. She recalled that Stanjura stated on Sunday that he would find the full amount of money in this year's budget even for extraordinary valorization. Okamura repeated at the press conference that the SPD movement will turn to the Constitutional Court in case of adoption of the standard, according to him the government had enough time to prepare the valorization, therefore the conditions for negotiations in a state of legislative emergency are not met. According to Schillerová, the opposition clubs did not agree on a joint course of action, but she did not rule out cooperation with the SPD, for example, in negotiations on the length of breaks.
According to the government, slowing down the June and thus the subsequent valorization of pensions is necessary to stabilize public finances. Opposition politicians from ANO and SPD, on the other hand, talk about an antisocial step and about “robbing” or “begging” pensioners. According to the amendment, the average monthly pension will increase from June by 760 crowns instead of the expected 1,770 crowns. According to the explanatory report, the state will save 19.4 billion crowns this year and 33 billion crowns next year.
SPD MPs want to increase the merit-based part of the pension by 2.3 percent, i.e. the same as the government. While the cabinet wants to add 400 kroner to each pensioner on top of that, according to SPD MPs, this fixed amount should be roughly one thousand kroner higher. Each of their adjustments assumes a different amount with crown differences. The ANO movement says that the obstructions will last at least until Friday.
According to the parliamentarian, three dozen MPs signed up in writing for the debate on the confirmation of the state of legislative emergency alone. A similar number of members of the lower house want to speak before the vote on whether the House of Representatives will consider the amendment in a so-called shortened procedure, i.e. with the omission of the first reading. coalition representatives in the upper chamber, in which the government camp has a significant advantage. Doubts in the same spirit have already been expressed by Petr Pavel, who should get the amendment signed as the new president. But he will comment on her only after he takes the oath and assumes the position of head of state.