September 8, 2017 / 12:11 PM / a year ago

Slovenia deficit goal unchanged in spite of funding for hospitals

LJUBLJANA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Slovenia kept its budget deficit target for 2017 unchanged at 0.8 percent of GDP on Friday although the government had decided it would give loss-making state-owned hospitals an additional 136 million euros ($164 million) by the end of the year.

As a consequence the 2017 state budget will have to be rebalanced, Finance Minister Mateja Vranicar Erman said after the government’s session, adding: “We will do that in a way that will not threaten the planned consolidation of public finances.”

Slovenia, which narrowly escaped an international bailout for its banks in 2013, returned to growth a year later and plans to reach a balanced budget by 2020.

Budget deficit reached 1.8 percent of GDP last year and the government hopes to bring it to 0.2 percent of GDP in 2018.

The decision to inject money into a number of loss-making hospitals comes about a week before the parliament will start debating a proposal of the opposition centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party to oust Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc over long waiting lines, corruption and losses of the national health system.

A year ago a patient killed a doctor and a policeman at a local hospital due to prolonged waiting on an operation he needed, according to local media reports. Slovenians have to wait for months or even years for some health exams and operations.

Analysts expect that the parliament, in which the government coalition has a comfortable majority, will give support to the minister in a vote that comes less than a year before the next general election that is expected in June or July next year. ($1 = 0.8290 euros) (Reporting By Marja Novak, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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