Pröll under pressure over pricey state debt info campaign

Opposition leaders have turned their guns on People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Josef Pröll over splashing out more than 800,000 Euros on a debt information campaign.The vice chancellor was forced to reveal his ministry spent 816,802 Euros on the controversial posters following Greens MP Karl Öllinger motion in parliament yesterday (Weds).The campaign – headlined “Weniger Schulden. Mehr für Österreich.” (Less Debts. More for Austria.) – featured images of babies and some lines in which Pröll explained that he was adamant to slash Austria’s whopping state debt equalling 70 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).The series of ads said that every citizen was in the red by 23,901 Euros if the nation’s debts were shared among Austrians.Freedom Party (FPÖ), Greens and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) have criticised the government coalition of ÖVP and Social Democrats (SPÖ) for investing such huge sums on the information campaigns.Öllinger claimed SPÖ and ÖVP spent around 30 million Euros on various information campaign posters and newspaper ads last year.The coalition has also come under fire for trying to postpone Pröll’s 2011 budget speech until December.FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache said SPÖ and ÖVP were deliberately breaching the Austrian constitution since it forced governments to present the annual budget ten weeks before New Year’s Day.Opposition leaders claimed the coalition parties were afraid it would suffer losses in the upcoming provincial elections of Styria (September) and Vienna (October) if the 2011 budget was presented on time.The coalition agreed on a bank tax from next year, hoping that taking 0.07 per cent of the banks’ annual assets would mean an extra 500 million Euros in takings annually.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann said he hoped his party would manage to convince the ÖVP to introduce a tax on assets, while Pröll has campaigned for an “eco tax” on fossil energy sources to boost “sustainable green jobs”.FPÖ, Greens and BZÖ have expressed fears the government’s upcoming “damaging” budget would hit middle class Austrians worst.