The Slovenia Times

In debate on economy, plurality of similar views


The debate saw the leaders of parties likely to enter parliament quizzed by celebrated entrepreneurs Joc Pečečnik, the boss of gaming company Interblock, Igor Akrapovič, the owner and boss of exhaust maker Akrapovič, Ivo Boscarol, the director of aircraft maker Pipistrel, and Janko Kodila, the boss of food company Kodila.

The businessmen complained about red tape hampering their investment drives, with an ill-fated investment by Pečečnik in a new stadium in Bežigrad, ten years in the making, held up as a particularly prominent example of bureaucracy gone wild.

Several party leaders suggested this was evidence of "state capture by bureaucracy".

Marjan Šarec, the leader of the namesake list, said the problem was ministries were not cooperating and the country was in fact run by low-level bureaucrats. He said the solution was a strong government that should intervene in such cases, and bureaucrats being held accountable for their actions.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec acknowledged this was indeed a problem, stressing that there were lobbies behind bureaucracy that even had the power to sweep away ministers, which is what happened when he was environment minister.

Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša suggested Slovenia had a "rule of bureaucracy" and said one solution was streamlining government, an idea also endorsed by New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin, who said the government was the one that had to have the final say when two state bodies reached opposing decisions.

Modern Centre Party (SMC) leader Miro Cerar meanwhile said that "the state has been captured to a certain degree ... but [our government] has definitely reduced the level of capture." He also said he had recently personally intervened in Pečečnik's case to "cut the Gordian knot".

Dejan Židan, the leader of the Social Democrats (SD), similarly noted that the government had reformed three major construction laws, but they were yet to take effect. However, he also cautioned that laws cannot hinge on whether a minister will personally intervene

The Left's Luka Mesec, on the other hand, noted that the focus should not be on bureaucratic obstacles. He noted that there were standards and rules that investors had to adhere to since "the state is not a servant of capital," pointing to major firms causing serious environmental problems in the past.

The debate also touched on wages, specifically the minimum wage and how to increase take-home pay. Most party leaders were in favour of some sort of tax cuts or tax restructuring in order to raise wages overall, but recipes differ significantly.

The SDS, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and NSi proposed raising the threshold or eliminating the top income tax bracket, whereby the NSi would additionally raise the basic tax credit to increase the lowest wages and the SDS would cut all tax brackets by two percentage points.

Židan advocated a tax restructuring favouring the middle class, a proposal that Erjavec said was also to the liking of the DeSUS.

But there was significant disagreement on tax cuts in general and their impact on the functioning of the state.

Židan warned that excessive tax cuts during boom years were bad since they set up the country for trouble when recession comes, which is what happened during 2004 and 2008, when Janša was in government.

Janša retorted that boom years were exactly the right time to cut taxes, a view also endorsed by Tonin.

Similarly, there was disagreement over the taxation of Christmas bonuses and performance bonuses, which the entrepreneurs called for as a means of rewarding good workers and sharing profit with them.

Janša and Tonin both endorsed this idea, as did Šarec, who also noted that the tax revenue shortfall would have to be offset somewhat, whereas Cerar said his government had already reduced the tax burden on bonuses to a certain degree.

Židan and Mesec cautioned against excessive tax cuts, with Židan noting that "taxes have a purpose" and Mesec stressing the importance of taxes financing health, education, science and the public sector in general.

Mesec therefore proposed that it was better to let workers participate in company profits.

The idea was endorsed by Boscarol on condition that profit is not taxed at all and rejected by Akrapovič, who said this was not a way to reward the best staff since everyone would get the same amount of money regardless of individual performance.

In general the debate saw heated exchanges in particular between the panel of businessmen and Mesec. At one point Janša said he had the feeling that "we had a debate between businessmen and Mr. Mesec."


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