Budget statement: We will do whatever is necessary
Finance Minister Blümel: No one knows how long the crisis will last. No one knows what impact it will have. But we do know that we will do everything to protect the health of Austrian citizens, to secure jobs and to get Austria through this crisis, whatever it costs.
"Exceptional circumstances demand exceptional solutions. This is a crisis budget and thus a mere reflection of the current situation," explained Finance Minister Gernot Blümel at today's budget statement before the Austrian National Council. Even just last week, on Monday 9 March, forecasts still existed that did not yet show the coronavirus epidemic to be having any impact. "Today, the world is a changed place, from my perspective as Finance Minister too. Coronavirus has evolved from being a presumed local Chinese problem to a global pandemic. Austria now has over 2,000 cases, and regrettably has also incurred deaths," added the Minister. "For this reason, entirely different criteria apply to this budget compared with previous budgets."
"What matters in this situation is not the figures that emerge at the end of the year when we balance our accounts. What will matter is how many lives we have saved, how many jobs we have secured and how many companies we have protected against insolvency. We want to do whatever is necessary. At the weekend, we already established an emergency aid fund totalling EUR 4 billion," explained Finance Minister Blümel. The Austrian federal government's emergency aid has already been incorporated into the budget by way of a budget overrun authorisation. Accordingly, the Maastricht deficit will total 1%. This crisis management fund has enabled funds to be made available quickly and directly so as to support Austria's healthcare requirements as effectively as possible, to preserve jobs and to secure and cover people's fixed costs. The funds have been used to purchase medical products, for instance, including respirator masks and protective suits and gloves, in a sum totalling around EUR 130 million. In order to achieve this, special legislation was adopted last weekend.
"But this has been just an initial step. This week, we have presented a further package – a safety net for the Austrian national economy and for jobs in Austria, amounting in total to EUR 38 billion," added Finance Minister Blümel. In addition to the EUR 4 billion in emergency aid, a further EUR 15 billion will be added by way of an aid and compensation fund, and EUR 10 billion for tax payment deferrals. "Since Monday, tax offices have received 21,163 applications for reductions of payments on account or tax payment deferrals. Of these, 18,860 had been processed by yesterday evening – i.e. almost 90%. I wish to thank all staff at the Ministry of Finance for acting so swiftly and without undue bureaucracy," added Blümel. Further measures in the sum of EUR 9 billion are planned for guarantees and liabilities so as also to ensure that companies are able to maintain liquidity. "This will naturally have an impact on the Budget. I have always said that a balanced budget is important, but the health of Austrian citizens, Austrian jobs, and Austria itself, are more important."
The financial leeway created over the past few years now makes it possible to provide rapid assistance. "This budget merely reflects the current situation during a period of immense crisis, the greatest crisis, without doubt, that my generation has ever experienced in Austria. No one knows how long the crisis will last, and no one knows what impact it will have. However, we do know that we will do everything in order to protect the health of Austrian citizens, to secure jobs and to get Austria through this crisis, whatever it costs," concluded Minister Blümel.