Union members rallied in front of the Montenegrin parliament on Monday against government plans to raise income tax to tackle a growing budget deficit.The unions said the plan to bring in higher taxes in order to help plug the hole in Montenegro’s budget was unfair to the poor and called on MPs not to vote for it.
Lawmakers were due on Monday to debate plans to add an extra three per cent to taxes on gross wages above 400 euro.
Many opposition parties and civil society organisations see the proposed tax hike as discrimination against the country’s poorest.
The Association of Free Trade Unions, which organised Monday’s protest and was involved in demonstrations that shook Montenegro last year, said that the wealthy should pay to ease the country’s financial problems.
“We’re asking the state for social justice, we’re asking for the handful of rich and privileged people to finally take over the burden of the crisis,” Srdja Kekovic, the association’s secretary general, said on Sunday.
But the government appears to be determined to implement the austerity measures, which Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has admitted will be unpopular but insisted would be “temporary”.
Local media reported meanwhile that parliament’s economy, finance and budget committee put forward a new proposal on Monday to raise taxes from nine to 15 per cent on net wages higher than the national average of 480 euro a month.
Since the global economic crisis started to affect Montenegro, the government has introduced a range of measures to preserve economic stability, but its austerity drive has caused public discontent.
The average net monthly wage of 480 euro, according to December 2012 statistics, is far from enough to meet the average family’s needs.
According to Montenegro’s state statistics bureau, the minimum that a four-person family needs is 800 euro.