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PM calls for responsibility, understanding, solidarity

Photo /Vijesti/2020/03 ožujak/24 ožujka/HN20200324510218.jpg

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Tuesday called on Croatians to show responsibility, understanding and solidarity as preconditions for an efficient struggle against the coronavirus outbreak and the consequences of the quake that hit Zagreb and its surroundings on Sunday morning.

"The government is aware of the circumstances. We are transparently informing about matters that are important for health and safety and security, we are implementing economic measures, we care about everyone," Plenkovic said.

"We are at the helm and we are supposed to lead the nation in this situation. We call on everyone to show understanding, solidarity and responsibility," Plenkovic said at a news conference at which his cabinet minister presented a rescue package for the economy.

"Let us stay together. We are together in this situation in this or that way in the next few months," he said.

The premier assessed the role of media as crucial.

Concerning the rescue package aimed at propping up the economy, Plenkovic said that those measures included the deferred payment of dues and some other steps being taken in the current circumstances.

FinMin: We will be as flexible as possible toward taxpayers

Addressing a press conference in Government House along with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other ministers in charge of different parts of the economic sector, Maric said that of the 63 measures that the government adopted last week, 90% are already being applied.

Amendments to rules on the implementation of the General Tax Act have entered into force today and they enable the deferment of paying certain public contributions as well as interest-free repayment, Maric said.

Taxpayers can submit their tax returns as of today, Maric said, appealing to citizens to primarily use online communication and avoid calling the tax administration due to congestion.

According to eligibility criteria for the government's measures, applicants must not have a tax debt of more than HRK 200, their annual income must have dropped by 20% or they expect their revenue to decrease by 20% or more in the coming months.

"Let's hope that these measures are sufficient, however, we are all deeply aware that the repercussions of the coronavirus epidemic for the health system and citizens' health and the economic sector will certainly last longer than the period we are currently referring to," he said, adding that that was why the government was already working on other measures.

The government will compensate local government units and the Croatian Health Insurance Institute for all deferred liabilities, like income tax and health insurance contributions, recalled Maric.

Aladrovic: 7,400 employers applying for aid, payments start end of week

The Croatian Ministry of Labour and Pension System informed on Tuesday that so far 7,400 employers with 40,000 workers had applied for the government minimum wage scheme whereby HRK 3,250 will be paid for each employee as a support to businesses hit by the crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Payments  will start at the end of the week, Minister Josip Aladrovic said at a news conference.

The Finance Ministry has secured about HRK 5 billion (€666 million) for this measure, said Aladrovic.

Covering the amount of the minimum wage for each employee is one of the measures to help the economy and Aladrovic underscored that the measures issued by his ministry are earmarked at saving jobs in those businesses affected by the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures apply to the period from 1 March to 31 May, that is, three months and the amount of support is HRK 3,250 per employee, Aladrovic told the press conference in Government House.

The target group encompassed by the measures are employers in tourism and hospitality, transport and storage, labour intensive industries, and health tourism.

"They are the branches affected the hardest by coronavirus," Aladrovic said and added that other sectors that feel the consequences of the crisis will be included.

Employers whose business operations have been halted due to the decisions by the National Civil Protection Authority will be automatically included in this measure.

He underscored that the desire is to make sure that micro businesses with up to ten employees can recover.

The criteria and application processes were defined late last week by the Croatian Employment Service.

The criteria are quite broad but it is primarily important to describe the reason for applying for support to preserve jobs and to back that up with proof, he said.

According to data that he presented, more than 80% of applications were submitted online and about 300 public servants in the employment services have been engaged to deal with those applications.

A contact centre has also been established where employers and employees can enquire about the measures.

Aladrovic expects payments to be paid starting with the end of the week and that they should all be paid by April 15.

Minister says additional measures to be introduced to help farmers

Agriculture Minister Marija Vuckovic on Tuesday unveiled measures for the farm sector, which are part of the government's initial set of measures designed to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, noting that additional measures were being worked on.

She said the first measure, for which Croatia had already applied with the European Commission, was ensuring flexibility between the pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Croatia has asked for additional funding in the third pillar, namely for securing sufficient income for farmers.

The planned amount considering possible flexibility is currently a minimum HRK 120 million, provided the EC supports the request, together with other countries, Vuckovic told a news conference in Government House, which was also attended by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other ministers in charge of different parts of the economic sector.

The second proposed measure is a small grants  scheme for the micro agricultural segment, family farms, crafts and employers with one to ten employees.

For that programme, HRK 53 million of budgetary funds is to be secured.

The programme refers to different sectors of crop and cattle farming and will be published by the start of next week at the latest, said Vuckovic.

The third measure is designed to launch a credit line for small businesses and for the wood-processing industry, with loans ranging to up to €25,000, with an interest rate of 0.5%. The line would be financed from the Rural Development Fund, she said.

As for the fisheries sector, Vuckovic said that a request had been sent to the EC to reintroduce measures for the temporary cessation of fishing activities. to make it possible for employers in the fisheries sector to provide full wages for their employees.

New small government grants for fisheries are another measure intended for the fisheries sector and aquaculture, with the government having approved an increase in those grants from 30,000 to 120,000 euros. The measure will be available until the end of this year.

Other measures include the possibility of co-financing packaging in the fisheries sector, deferral of payment of concession fees and mooring fees, etc, said Vuckovic.

Text: Hina