Zagreb - The leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bridge party, Davor Bernardić and Božo Petrov respectively, on Wednesday had a completely different view of this past year as well as the past three years of the current government's term than that presented in Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's annual report to the parliament, while the ruling Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) whip Branko Bačić dismissed their allegations.
"If everything is so great, what are you afraid of, why don't you call an election," Bernardić asked Plenković.
He claimed that today more than one million people work for a wage that is below the average pay and that more than more than one million people live on the verge of poverty, half of them being pensioners who "cannot buy a packet of sweets for their grandchildren."
Bernardić lambasted the government for the situation in the health sector, the emigration of more than 150,000 working-age people and corruption.
"Corruption has never been more rife nor has there been fewer investments. Instead of resolving the problem of poverty, the government has opted for a planned tactic of creating chaos and encouraging nationalism in order to cover up its impotence and incompetence," Bernardić said.
He criticised the prime minister's announcement not to reduce the VAT rate by one percentage point next year over a planned increase in wages of government and public service employees. Once again, you have sold citizens cheap populism, Bernardić said.
Reality show in St. Mark's Square
"Instead of true reforms you have promoted political bartering as part of public discourse. We have a reality show in St. Mark's Square and that is the perception that this government will be remembered by," Božo Petrov said and concluded that this was a "government crisis" and that its term was time wasted.
Petrov said there was a long list of things that had not been done, from the health sector, where the government had created chaos, to the pension reform, which was dismantled by the will of the people.
How can we believe in a wage increase when you have not kept any of your promises which last for just one day, Petrov said, accusing the prime minister of running away from a referendum or the possibility of an election.
Each day 137 people find employment
HDZ whip Branko Bačić said that the prime minister's announcement of a wage increase next year had obviously caught Bernardić and Petrov by surprise, which was why their addresses in parliament were so shoddy.
Bačić highlighted the numerous positive indicators in society referred to earlier by the prime minister, adding that the state as an employer would have increased its employees' wages by about 22% by the end of the current government's term. That says enough about this government's success, competence, reform capacity and know-how, Bačić underscored.
He said that currently there are 165,000 more people employed than three years ago, when the government stepped into office. "Every day, 137 people find employment in Croatia. During the term of the Zoran Milanović's government, 26 people lost their jobs every day," Bačić underscored and recalled a 11% increase in pensions, a 20% increase in the minimum wage, the budget surplus and reduced tax burden.