ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 – Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday that a proposal to ensure free school textbooks for primary school pupils would be further discussed to see its potential effect on the budget.
The proposal has been made by the parliamentary group of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić’s Work and Solidarity Party, the Reformists and Independents, and was discussed at a meeting on Tuesday.
Asked by the press if the proposal was in fact an ultimatum, Marić said he did not see it that way. “We had a constructive discussion on several points concerning tax laws and the budget,” Marić said after a parliamentary debate on amendments to tax laws.
A source close to this parliamentary group said on Tuesday they had notified Marić that they would not support next year’s budget, which will be put to a vote in parliament on December 3, unless sufficient funding was secured for free school textbooks for all primary school pupils in the country.
The group cited a constitutional provision saying that compulsory education is free, and said that this would ease the financial burden on parents. Estimating the cost of free textbooks at 200 million kuna, they said it was possible to find this amount in next year’s budget, which is planned at 140 billion kuna.
Marić said that Croatia had experience with free school textbooks for primary school students both at local and central government levels, adding that central government funding for this purpose had been suspended at one point, after which local government units allocated funds for free textbooks within the limits of their resources. “This measure needs to be further discussed to see its total potential financial effect and how it fits with the bill on textbooks, which is now in procedure,” Marić said.
Asked how much this measure would cost the budget, Marić said that the last figure for free textbooks for primary school and the first grade of secondary school was about 400 million kuna. “In any case, we need an update on this calculation,” he added.
Asked to comment on the latest HUP Score, which shows that Croatia was economically lagging behind other EU member states, Marić said he had not had time to see details of this index, compiled by the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP), and would do so soon.
He said that in a third round of tax cuts the tax burden had been reduced by 7 billion kuna and that room should be created for further tax breaks. “We control the expenditure side of the budget and all surplus revenues go towards reducing the public debt and the tax burden.”
For more on Croatia’s education system, click here.