All resources will be mobilized to make sure as many citizens as possible gets vaccinated

Photo /Vijesti/2021/travanj/29 travnja/Beroš.jpg

Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a government session on Thursday that vaccination against COVID-19 would be stepped up and would be taking place seven days a week and at least 12 hours a day.

The government has secured sufficient quantities of vaccines and a chain of command has been established for the sake of better organisation, with coordinators having been appointed at the national and regional levels, he said.

The chief coordinator is the director of the Croatian Public Health Institute and three new coordinators have been appointed - for vaccination points, distribution and IT support, Beroš said.

He said that registration for vaccination via the CijepiSe platform was functioning and that work was underway to remove delays in the entry of data on vaccination in the register of people who had been vaccinated. The data should be entered by 30 April, after which the entry of vaccinations should be done within 24 hours, he said.

Beroš said that all human resources would be mobilised to make sure vaccination was conducted seven days a week and at least 12 hours a day, which requires a sufficient number of staff administering vaccines and administrative-technical staff, which was why the Ministry of Defence and the Red Cross Croatia were asked to join in.

A new operational plan for the vaccination of active population is being worked on and priority groups are being determined, he said.

Beroš said that so far more than one million vaccine doses had arrived in Croatia, that 825,000 or 81.7% had been administered and that 648,709 people had been vaccinated. A vaccination rate of 16% has been achieved for people aged 60 and over. The rate for vaccination with the first dose is the highest in Zagreb (18%) while the rate for vaccination with the second dose is the highest in Sisak-Moslavina County (6.65%).

The minister said that pressure on the hospital system was not subsiding but that patients were adequately cared for and that hospitals had been asked to allow family members to visit patients in serious condition and in palliative care on the condition that epidemiological restrictions are complied with.

National Council for Development of Social Policies

The government adopted a decision to establish the National Council for the Development of Social Policies and launched a procedure for the preparation of a Strategy for the Demographic Revitalisation of Croatia by 2031.

"Social security and welfare for our socially vulnerable citizens is one of the primary objectives of this government's activities. That is an area for which we foresee significant investments in the coming period, partly from the budget and partly from EU funds amounting to more than HRK 5.5 billion," Minister Josip Aladrović said.

At the same time, in an effort to improve the quality and efficiency of social policies, the National Council for the Development of Social Policies will be established as an advisory and expert government body, he added.

"It will contribute to the development of the government's social policies through proposals and expert opinions from which our citizens will have the most benefit," Aladrović said.

Council members will be appointed by the government at the ministry's recommendation. The Council will comprise representatives of state administration, professional chambers, the academic community, civil society organisations and other organisations that can contribute with their knowledge and experience, he added.

The Council will in particular be responsible for monitoring and improving the social security system. It will monitor the implementation of international agreements and existing regulations relating to social security, as well as the needs and standards of social services and other issues. It will also make recommendations for measures and development and monitor activities in social planning and development of the social welfare system.

The Council will convene as necessary, at least once a month. Council members will not be paid for their work, and the Council's work will be transparent and public.

Funds for the Council's activities will be ensured from the ministry's allocation in the state budget.

Demographic revitalisation a key national issue

The government also adopted a decision to launch a procedure for the preparation of a Strategy for Demographic Revitalisation until 2031. The government commissioned the Central State Office for Demography and Youth to prepare a strategy and to appoint a task force.

"The issue of demographic revitalisation is a key national issue for the survival and development of Croatia," state-secretary in the Central Office for Demography Željka Josić said.

Demographic revitalisation is one of the priority areas of the National Development Strategy until 2030 which sets out guidelines for demographic revitalisation and priorities that will contribute to resolving negative demographic trends.

The strategy deals with areas such as material and non-material support, housing, tax reliefs, public health, education, life-long learning, labour market and mobility, said Josić.

This decision aligns the document with the Strategic Planning and Development Management Act as the key strategic document for national strategic development.

Convergence Programme: Croatia's economy to rise 5.2% in 2021, 6.6% in 2022

Economic activity is expected to pick up at a rate of 6.6% in 2022.

The  Convergence Programme is a document that is adopted on a regular basis in dialogue with the European Union's institutions as part of the European semester.

This year's document also deals with macroeconomic, fiscal and other economic effects of the draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO), which was forwarded today to the European Commission for final fine-tuning.

Addressing the meeting, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said that the effects of the NPOO raised the projected growth rate by 0.3 percentage points. Furthermore, growth of 6.6% and 4.1% is forecast for 2022 and 2023 respectively,

The finance minister said that these rates have 1.5 percentage points of the effects made by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

In 2024 the economy is expected to rise at a rate of 3.4%.

Marić pointed out growing commodity and services exports as a positive contribution to the growth.

Domestic consumption and investments will also give tailwinds to the growth.

2021 budget gap at 3.8% to narrow in coming years

The projections from the Convergence Programme, including the fiscal elements, will serve as an input in the preparation of the budget revision, the minister said.

Concerning the expenditure side, the minister pointed out the costs incurred due to the COVID-19 epidemic, which have reached HRK 32 billion.

He said that in 2020, HRK 14.1 billion was used to offset the pandemic and an additional 8.6 billion this year. Of that amount, the  largest portion was used for the job retention scheme, including grants for job-keeping measures, shortened working hours, and the coverage of the fixed costs of enterprises.

In the healthcare system, the COVID-related costs covered the procurement of coronavirus tests and now vaccine supplies, Marić added

Therefore, the initial plan of this year's budget gap of 2.9% has widened to 3.8% of GDP, the minister explained.

In 2022, the budget gap should be within the limits set by the Maastricht criteria (-2.6%), and in 2023 it would narrow to 1.9% and further to 1.5% in 2024, according to the minister's explanation.

Marić recalled that Croatia had left the excessive deficit procedure in 2017 and was no longer in the group of countries with excessive economic imbalances, regaining the status of a creditworthy country. He also underscored Croatia's aspirations to adopt the euro.

Text: Hina