zdravko maric.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Daniel KASAP/ dk

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Friday the interest by some domestic companies and pension funds in the privatisation of several state-owned companies was more than welcome and that he expected the business community to approve of the privatisation, despite political resistance.

He was speaking to reporters as part of the New Europe Business Forum, organised by the Zagreb School of Economics and Management. Commenting on criticisms of the announced privatisation, he said "there will always be opposition to any reform."

The government wants to send a clear message that, aside from fiscal consolidation and the lowest deficit since the pre-recession period, the activation and privatisation of state property will make the biggest contribution to the stabilisation of debt-to-GDP ratio already this year, Maric said, adding that this was an important message for the rating agencies, international and domestic investors and entrepreneurs.

Commenting on media reports that the government ignored banks' invitation to a meeting before they launched arbitration proceedings over the conversion of Swiss franc loans, he said talks with the banks would continue and reiterated that there was no official information that those proceedings would be launched. He added that 94 percent of those loans had been converted and that going back was not possible, reiterating that the European Commission had requested explanations regarding certain aspects of the loan conversion law.

Maric said he expected to meet with representatives of the rating agencies soon and that the government would do its best to assure them that the National Reform Programme and the Convergence Plan would be implemented in order to stabilise Croatia's credit rating outlook this year.

The rating is currently two notches below the investment level, with a negative outlook for some time now. "We will be very active and not only defend our positions, but try to explain that these aren't just a plan and a programme, but that they have genuine political support," Maric said.

He said the government would tackle the public debt through stronger economic growth, a lower fiscal deficit, and the further activation of state properties so that they can "raise the value of a whole microregion, which has both a medium and a long term component in value creation."

He said a tax reform draft was expected by the middle of the year so that it could go into force on 1 January 2017. "A tax reform is necessary because the system is... complex and does not deliver as it should. We want to make it simpler, more efficient and more stimulating."

After six years of recession, the tax base is markedly smaller and the government cannot think about raising taxes but about how to expand the tax base, create conditions for reducing the tax burden and stimulating businesses as well as citizens, Maric said.

He said the reform would tackle the entire system, including the highest income tax rate, the profit tax, excises, the introduction of a property tax, reducing VAT in tourism and agriculture.

Related stories

Fin Min: The key is to upgrade credit rating

FinMin says gov't won't hesistate and delay reforms

Croatian economy: Positive trends expected to continue

Government adopts draft 2016 budget

Latest news

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for 'The Truth' with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.