Design: Prishtina Insight

2024 Budget Prioritizes Defense at the Expense of Economic Development

The Assembly of Kosovo has provisionally approved the Draft Law for the 2024 budget, just days after the Government of Kosovo endorsed it with a value exceeding 3 billion euros. Notably, the opposition parties were absent during the late-night session on November 16, where, after about 10 hours of discussion, the Assembly provisionally approved the draft law outlining budget allocations for 2024.

Earlier, the Kosovo Government gave its nod to the budget for 2024, totaling 3.314 billion euros. Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated that the aim is to reinforce support for priority sectors and execute the government’s program. However, the 2024 budget has faced harsh criticism from Kosovo’s opposition and raised concerns among experts in the field.

During a government meeting on October 31, PM Kurti asserted that a robust economy with increased job opportunities justifies the budget’s expansion. He emphasized, “This budget will go towards increasing support for priority sectors and implementing our government program.”

While addressing the Assembly, Kurti referred to next year’s budget as the defense and security budget. Nevertheless, Kurti’s predecessors in the government hold a different opinion. Ramush Haradinaj, former PM of Kosovo and current chairman and deputy of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, characterized the 2024 budget as a blueprint for impoverishment and stagnation, labeling it “a continuation of the failure of the 3 years of [PM Albin] Kurti’s government.”

Haradinaj voiced these concerns at a round table organized by the AAK Parliamentary Group, where the 2024 budget was under discussion. He stressed, "The draft budget for the year 2024 with the parameters determined by the Government is not a development budget but a stagnant one, both in terms of development and in terms of social and living standards."

Two days later, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, also convened a round table on the same topic. Avdullah Hoti, the former prime minister of Kosovo and current LDK MP, criticized the government, stating, "It is the fourth year in a row that this government proposes a budget that is deficient and inconsistent with the needs of municipalities, businesses, and unions."

The Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the largest opposition party in the Assembly, also expressed opposition to the budget. PDK MP Mergim Lushtaku argued that the budget lacks a development alternative and is not conducive to citizen welfare.

Arian Lumezi, Project Coordinator at the Institute for Social Policy "Musine Kokalari" in Prishtina, believes that the budget's allocation does not anticipate a significant transformation compared to previous years. He remarked, "The allocation of the budget for the next year does not envisage any deep transformation of the budget structure that has usually been applied in Kosovo, both by past governments, but also by the last years of the current government."

In the budget presentation, PM Kurti highlighted allocations for salaries, stating that the salary coefficient for 2024 would be 110 euros, with the total salary budget expected to be 805 million euros – about 30 per cent higher than the budget five years ago. However, Haradinaj argued that the increase from 105 to 110 euros is not a genuine raise but rather a real reduction in salaries, citing inflation rates.

Arian Lumezi welcomed any increase in the wage coefficient but emphasized the need for a more long-term vision and concrete investment plans to boost local production and enhance wages for private sector workers.

Kurti announced an increase in the number of policemen by 500 and soldiers by 600, with an emphasis on bolstering the defense and security sector. This decision follows a terrorist attack in Banjska, northern Kosovo, on September 24. Lumezi views the increase in the defense budget positively but raises concerns about the salaries of Kosovo Security Force, KSF, members.

In terms of education, Kurti pledged support for the construction of schools, implementation of reforms, and scholarships for youth. He also highlighted increased investments in the health sector for hospital renovations and modern equipment to reduce the need for citizens to seek treatment abroad.

Kurti expressed satisfaction with the budget allocation for the Ministry of Justice, emphasizing a 31 per cent increase for justice reform initiatives. He also highlighted increased budgetary support for culture, youth, and sports, with a focus on making Kosovo a serious competitor in sports.

In conclusion, Arian Lumezi stressed the importance of the government having a clearer vision for economic development and stronger political will to undertake bold fiscal and tax reforms that consider the needs of all societal groups. While the budget allocations have been outlined in the law, Lumezi cautioned that increased funding does not always guarantee improved performance in certain sectors.

Kosovo's budget for 2023 was 3.2 billion euros.

and 12/12/2023 - 10:22

12 December 2023 - 10:22

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.