A debate ahead of the November 8 parliamentary elections organised by Nova TV on Friday hosted Orsat Miljenic of the "Croatia is Growing" coalition, Zeljko Reiner of the Patriotic Coalition, Drago Prgomet of the Most (Bridge) platform of independent candidates, Mirela Holy of the ORaH green party, Ivan Vilibor Sincic of the Human Barrier party, and Slobodan Prosperov Novak of the Bandic Milan 365 party.
Asked which reform they would carry out first if given the opportunity to form the new government, Miljenic said that his coalition would implement a tax reform and reduce para-fiscal levies, as well as reform public administration and education.
Reiner said that one should start with reforming the economic system and creating a favourable investment climate, notably for small businesses and family-run farms. Agriculture should be revived and there is a set of measures to achieve taht. A reform of public administration is necessary but that should not be done with lay-offs but by making it more efficient, Reiner said, adding that measures should also be introduced immediately to boost the birth rate.
Prgomet said that a reform of public administration and the country's territorial structure was a precondition of economic recovery. Public administration needs to be depoliticised and all public administration employees should be selected through a public selection process, with only the prime minister and ministers being office-holders. Local administration should be reduced by one-third, said Prgomet.
Holy, too, supported a reform of public administration and of the country's territorial structure, calling for the abolishment of counties and establishment of five regions. We also advocate the reduction of the local administration to 50 towns and 150 municipalities, said Holy.
Sincic believes that the first reform should be a reform of the monetary system, saying that interest rates in Croatia are extremely high and that the country is in debt bondage owing to the existing system established in the 1990s by the HDZ and the SDP.
Prosperov Novak said that the first move of Bandic's party would be made at the election because citizens would show that "they do not support the mentalities that have masked themselves as political parties and devour one another." He said that his party was not a third way but the first and only way.
The next question referred to VAT reduction and an increase in non-taxable income, to which Reiner said that the Patriotic Coalition planned to reduce the current, 25% VAT rate, to 23% by the middle of the term and to 20% by its end.
Prgomet said that there was no room for VAT cuts and that the German IFO institute too had recommended that this should not be done, which he said was why the non-taxable part of income should be increased instead.
Holy believes that a radical tax reform should be carried out and that the tax burden on labour should be reduced and capital should be taxed. Before changing the VAT rate, an analysis is required so as to prevent a tax imbalance, she said.
The Human Barrier is in favour of reducing the VAT rate, introducing a 10% profit tax and reducing contributions and parafiscal levies, while Prosperov Novak called for a gradual reduction of the VAT rate and a balanced budget.
Miljenic said the coalition "Croatia is Growing" would first cut para-fiscal levies and reduce the burden on income, which he said had already partly been done, resulting in higher salaries that enabled citizens to spend more. The European Commission has recommended that the VAT rate should not be reduced, but we intend to reduce it for specific products so as to boost production and consumption, he said.
A possible legal ban on abortion was opposed strongly by Holy, who said that women should have the right to decide because abortion was done out of necessity.
Prgomet, too, was against a ban on abortion, noting that women should be told that abortion was not a form of contraception.
Unlike other participants in the debate, Reiner said that the Patriotic Coalition, as a Christian Democratic coalition, supported life from natural birth to natural death. Abortion harms a woman's body and leaves lasting consequences. It is not a form of contraception and should not be a way to plan a family, he added.
Holy then insisted that Reiner state if he was in favour of banning abortion, to which he only said that abortion should not be allowed "to whoever and whenever someone felt like it" because it was harmful to women.