Photograph: HINA

Caretaker Finance Minister Boris Lalovac said on Monday he believed that public administration reform would require tougher talks with the trade unions, a much more stable government and more stable voting in Parliament.

Speaking in an interview with Croatian Television in the evening, Lalovac said that during his year and a half as minister he had managed to implement several measures with which he was pleased, citing the reduction of income tax that had encouraged consumption. He noted that without the support of Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic he would not have succeeded in that, adding that he could not see why Milanovic should resign as leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

"Had I not had Milanovic's support, many good things would not have been done. Milanovic has my absolute support. ... We did a very responsible and tough job," Lalovac said when asked to comment on an open letter by former SDP MP and minister Gvozden Flego to Milanovic asking him to step down after losing the elections and making a series of political mistakes.

Asked why the outgoing government had not reformed public administration and whether he thought that the new government would succeed in it, Lalovac said: "It should be borne in mind that we talk about 250,000 people, of whom as many as 200,000 are in only four departments: the military, police, health and education. These four departments are the only areas in which any significant steps can be taken on the expenditure side of the budget. We have introduced a central wage accounting system and reduced the wage budget to the 2007/2008 levels, and these are the maximum limits we managed to achieve. Any larger undertakings will require much tougher talks with the trade unions, a much more stable government and more stable voting for the reform of state and public administration in Parliament."

"Someone will have to give good reason for reducing the number of physicians, nurses, teachers, servicemen or police," he added.

Lalovac said that he had not yet been contacted by anyone from the ruling coalition and that he would be pleased to provide any information so that they could begin their work as soon as possible. "The prime minister-designate is facing a tough job. Some documents need to be in Brussels in February and March. It is not necessary just to put together the budget but also to enact a lot of new laws that will limit costs. He will have a lot of problems in putting the budget together because he is required to present documents and because large debts are falling due and will need refinancing."

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