Extraordinary meeting of the House of Representatives on the proposal to limit the extraordinary June valorization of pensions, February 28, 2023, Prague. In the photo, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka.
Prague – The Chamber of Deputies will vote on consent to the abbreviated discussion of the controversial proposal to reduce the June increase in pensions today at 8:00 p.m. The fixed time was set by the votes of practically all coalition and opposition legislators according to the counter-proposal of Patrik Nacher from the opposition ANO. The coalition originally proposed setting the date for the vote at 3:30 p.m. After the speeches of the speakers with the right of priority, ordinary MPs did not get to speak until around 17:00, so they have only three hours in total for their speeches. In half an hour, however, due to another series of two-minute verbal exchanges, only three of the 61 MPs registered for the debate got to speak.
According to the chairman of the ANO club, Alena Schillerová, the coalition, by agreeing to a longer period for the debate, only wants to improve its position at the Constitutional Court, to which the opposition intends to turn in the event of the adoption of the government's pension proposal.
< p>Deputies debated the government's pension amendment for approximately 42 hours with several breaks, today without a break from 07:00. More than 55 hours have passed since the beginning of the session of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Radek Vondráček, for the ANO club, once again questioned the abbreviated approval of the pension amendment in a state of legislative emergency, as well as the justification of such a procedure with the threat of significant economic damage. He believes that when the valorization is given by law, there can be no question of any damage, and the government could also label pensions as such as damage. Radim Fiala, head of the SPD deputies, urged careful and exceptional use of the legislative emergency. He believes that the assumptions of January inflation were already clear earlier and the cabinet should have submitted the valorization adjustment already in the autumn for proper approval. “It would be a fair procedure and a fair game from the government,” he said.
The afternoon voting date was suggested by the chairman of the People's Deputies, Marek Výborný, pointing out the “sweeping” discussion and repetitive arguments. Opposition MPs submitted 24 counter-proposals. Nacher justified his request to postpone the vote until this evening by saying that a significant part of the six dozen properly registered MPs will be able to attend. “It is calculated in such a way as to allow ordinary deputies to speak,” he said. The coalition had previously limited the time for speeches to a maximum of two five minutes, but this did not apply to speakers with priority rights.
Nacher's counter-proposal was among the closest to the coalition proposal. Its approval infuriated SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, who wanted the House to vote on agreeing to a shortened discussion of the amendment, skipping the first reading at 8pm on Sunday. He asked if there was an agreement between ANO and the coalition. “It confirms that the SPD movement seems to be the only opposition party here,” he said. ANO representatives objected to Okamura's opinion. They pointed out that all present SPD deputies, including Okamura, voted for today's 20:00. “Mr. Okamura, don't be a demagogue, there was no agreement here,” declared Robert Králíček (YES).
STAN Member of Parliament Josef Flek told Okamur that “if he had not selfishly wasted time in the House of Representatives, it would have reached the other side in the opposition”. Okamura has delivered three filibustering speeches since Tuesday's opening of the parliamentary session, which lasted more than 11.5 hours in total. The leader of the Pirate MPs, Jakub Michálek, said that the opposition had finally come to their senses and that the goal was to create a representative space for the presentation of opinions.
Schiller believes that the coalition misused Nacher's counter-proposal and supported it for rational reasons, not “out of love for the opposition”. “For me, it's clear. It's running into your shoes. You know you blew the whistle and you're trying to improve your position at the Constitutional Court,” she said.
Similar to today, the coalition proceeded in an attempt to overcome the opposition's obstruction already on Wednesday. She let the House of Representatives decide on the determination of a fixed time for voting on the confirmation of the duration of the state of legislative emergency. The Speaker of the House Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09) infuriated the opposition at the time by allowing its representatives to present a dozen counter-proposals, and she did not allow other interested parties to the floor.
Jurečka refused that the government would submit a change in pensions until now because of the election of the president
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) objected today in the House of Representatives to opposition complaints that the government could have presented an adjustment to reduce the growth of pensions earlier and that it waited until after the election of the president. He repeated that the extraordinary June valorization of pensions according to the current rules would mean a budget expenditure of almost 600 billion crowns in the next ten years, and this impact would no longer be possible to limit in any way. A permanent statutory expenditure would threaten the sustainability of the pension system in the future, the minister said.
Jurečka rejected the connection between the time of the submission of the amendment on the reduction of the pension growth in June and the January presidential elections, saying that he had been talking about the need to change the valuation for many months. “In the fall and in January, I clearly declared that we need to adjust the long-term valorization mechanism because it is not sustainable in the long term,” he noted. In the presidential final, the chairman of the ANO opposition movement, Andrej Babiš, faced off against the victorious retired general Petr Pavlo, supported by the coalition. ANO MPs have pointed out several times in the parliamentary debate so far that the earlier submission of the current amendment could affect the outcome of the election.
Jurečka also said that the government expected an extraordinary valorization of pensions this year, but with effects on the budget for this year of up to 20 billion crowns. That they should be much higher, over 35 billion crowns, was caused by the jump in inflation between December and January, according to him. Thanks to the one-time reduction of the June valuation, the state will save approximately 20 billion crowns this year. The minister estimated the reduction of expenses in the next ten years at 316.4 billion crowns.
Jurečka also disagreed with the opposition's claims about the retroactive effect of the amendment and that it violates the legitimate expectations of pensioners. He emphasized again that the claim depends only on the relevant government regulation, which must be issued in this case by March 22. Using passages from one of the findings of the Constitutional Court, the minister also defended the coalition's approach against opposition obstructions in the House of Representatives. It consists in shortening the speaking time and setting a fixed time for voting.
In response to the minister's speech, ANO Member of Parliament Berenika Peštová said that according to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the government is obliged to prepare for the implementation of valid laws within the framework of the state budget. Her colleague from the movement, Margita Balaštíková, said that 400,000 pensioners are below the income poverty line. “Most people will not come for the social benefits that you are so happy to throw away,” said the ANO MP, which was criticized for its generous social policy and subsidies during the coronavirus crisis. Jaroslav Foldyna (SPD) noted ironically that the cabinet of Petr Fiala (ODS) managed to “reduce” inflation from the end of Babiš's government from five percent to the current 15 percent.
Today's parliamentary debate was also accompanied by disputes regarding the average income ratio towards the average wage and regarding the pension reform. Martin Kukla (ANO) urged the coalition to stop “committing political suicide”.