Cabinet discusses budget proposal

The Cabinet will meet today to approve the government’s proposal for the 2004 general state budget which National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis will present to Parliament on Monday. The basic forecasts of the budget are based on the expectation that next year’s growth will be 4-4.2 percent of GDP, from an expected 4 percent in 2003. The deficit in 2004 is expected to touch on 1 percent of GDP, while this year it will close above the initial forecast of 1.9 percent of GDP. As for revenues, Christodoulakis expects them to be at «normal» levels as no new taxes are forecast. Christodoulakis briefed Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night on the efforts being made to curb state spending to prevent the deficit from widening. In accordance with this, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Farmakis has decided to cut by 5 percent some 43 categories of funding which include funds for hospitals, educational and research institutes, public agencies, public utilities, churches, and so on. The same decision will affect certain categories of spending related to operational costs and overtime pay, which may be cut by up to 15 percent. The general state budget is traditionally voted on in a roll call vote in late December after a weeklong debate.

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