Opposition accuses govt. of manipulation, populism, vote-buying

The opposition on Tuesday criticised Social Policy Minister Milanka Opacic, who announced higher social welfare benefits and the introduction of electricity vouchers for those on welfare, saying the government did not earmark the funds for that and that this was a question of manipulation, political populism, and vote-buying ahead of a parliamentary election.
“Electricity is a universal energy source, which is why we decided that 125,000 vulnerable citizens, or 60-70 thousand households, will receive HRK 200 a month for electricity costs. We believe that in this way we can help in suppressing energy poverty,” Opacic said, presenting amendments to the Social Welfare Act at an extraordinary parliamentary session.
She said the money for that was not secured by increasing the budget but by rationalising the social welfare system.
Independent MP Branko Vuksic said that helping the poor three weeks before parliament’s dissolution “is pure vote-buying.”
Dujomir Marasovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) called the government’s move a swindle and manipulation which constituted another tax on citizens.
Opacic dismissed the accusations of a new tax, saying negotiations were under way to change the formula applied to power providers so that they would pay a fee for energy poverty, just as they did for renewables, all of which went into the state budget.
Zeljko Reiner of the HDZ said laws were not promises made a couple of months before elections and that these energy poverty costs would burden the budget and be passed onto the next government.
Suncana Glavak of the HDZ said this was a new tax, “sheer manipulation and political populism… a universal method of manipulating a universal energy source.”
Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said, “It’s a disgrace that so many citizens wait from one election year to another to see if they will get what they probably wouldn’t get in regular procedure.”
Amendments to the Social Welfare Act envisage introducing electricity vouchers for 11,090 singles who are unfit for work and increasing their monthly welfare benefits from HRK 800 to 920 as well as from HRK 320 to 440 for children of single parents and single-parent families.
(EUR 1 = HRK 7.5)