The head of the Federal Audit Office (RH) has appealed to political leaders to avoid “gambling away the future of our children”.
Josef Moser provided the government coalition and the parliament’s opposition factions with a list of 599 suggestions where the country could become more efficient as lawmakers keep arguing over how to slash the state debt.
Moser said today (Thurs) that his package of possible measures was not about austerity measures but “structural reforms” and attempts to improve public institutions’ efficiency and transparency. Austria’s bloated bureaucracy has been identified as a key problem area the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) should tackle.
SPÖ Financial Affairs Secretary Andreas Schieder said he welcomed Moser’s ideas. Schieder added he considered them as a confirmation of the government’s willingness to introduce a constitutional debt limit. Critics have expressed doubts whether such a step would make sense since it was unclear what should happen if future governments breach the restrictions possibly agreed on later this month.
ÖVP financial issues spokesman Günther Stummvoll claimed: “It is time to start a debate free of any taboos.” Michael Spindelegger, the head of his party and Austria’s vice chancellor, hit out at the opposition for refusing to approve the government’s debt brake project under the current circumstances. Spindelegger accused the Greens, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) of being irresponsible.
FPÖ General Secretary Harald Kickl argued Moser’s appeal identified the failures made by Social Democrats and the ÖVP in the past years. The parties have formed the government since 2007. Their partnership followed a coalition between the ÖVP and the BZÖ. The right-wing opposition party was founded by late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider. Kickl told radio station Ö1 today: “Austria’s state debts did not appear overnight. They are a result of poor decision-making by SPÖ and ÖVP.”
Kickl suggested that the leaders of the five parties represented in parliament should meet with Moser and Bernhard Felderer, who heads the Federal Debt Commission, to speak about ways to decrease Austria’s inefficient public administration. Kickl said there should be early elections if the government refused to debate the problems highlighted by Moser. The BZÖ said today it was also in support of the idea of organising a round table meeting of the coalition and the opposition with Moser and Felderer.
It was Felderer’s warning of a downgrade of Austria’s economic outlook by international rating agencies which made the government present plans of a debt limit. The financial policies tool should ensure that Austria’s debt gets reduced from 74 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 60 per cent as demanded by the European Union (EU).
SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann and Spindelegger want to achieve this goal by 2020. They came under fire last month for refusing to carry out significant cutbacks already next year. The government plans to start spending less in 2013. However, spokesmen for the SPÖ and ÖVP confirmed some days ago that next year’s budget may be changed in some regards to fill the gap of 900 million to 1.3 billion Euros – money which is missing to lower the budget deficit to three per cent of GDP. Austria has a budget deficit of 3.9 per cent at the moment.
ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter explained that the government’s focus would be on reducing various investments and subsidies in the coming months. Schieder and SPÖ General Secretary Günther Kräuter made clear that certain taxes like the tax on assets and land should be increased. SPÖ Media State Secretary Josef Ostermayer will head his party’s team of negotiators in upcoming talks with Fekter, according to Die Presse.