The Slovenia Times

Economy minister to continue pro-business course


The new government is "very business-oriented" and will do everything in its power to further develop the business environment, he said.

The government started its term by having to deflect criticism from business that it would engage in socialist taxation policies, a claim that Počivalšek disputes.

"Some have gone beyond self-defence by starting activities in this field before the government even took office," he said in reference to criticism about the tax plans as enshrined in the coalition agreement.

The coalition agreement is merely "a starting point" and there are different ways to achieve the goals.

As to the grievances that the government plans are too focussed on distributing rather than creating wealth, he said Slovenia had a fiscal rule, which "says that public spending cannot exceed revenue".

The government's task is therefore to create good business conditions, which in turn means the state will have more funds to finance its public services.

Počivalšek noted that only last year had Slovenia reached the 2008 level of GDP, so "it is vital to maintain the well-oiled economic engine to perform at high speed".

Asked about macroeconomic forecasters' downgrading Slovenia's growth, he noted GDP forecasts in recent years had been worse than actual growth proved to be, so he believes this year will be no exception.

What is more, he believes Slovenia has sufficient wiggle room before growth slows down to the European growth average.

Nevertheless, since Slovenia is a very export-oriented economy, "we must secure a competitive, stable and predictable business environment", he stressed.

The minister admitted there were some risks, chiefly global trade wars and a shortage of workforce as the main domestic factor, saying one option of coping with the shortage was importing workers.

While many people from the area of former Yugoslavia already work in Slovenia, the ministry has already started working on attracting workers from Ukraine and Georgia, he explained.

Počivalšek is optimistic about the Slovenian economy in general, saying it was on the path towards higher value added, which was also a step towards higher salaries.

Looking back at his term in the Miro Cerar government, he highlighted the adoption of the law on promoting investments as one of his main achievements.

He noted that many investors wanted to invest in various parts of the country and in various industries.

His ministry has identified several locations for greenfield or brownfield investments, including in Posavje and on the site of a former sugar factory in Ormož, both in the north-east of the country.

What is more, over 1,000 degraded areas have been identified to serve for mid-sized investments, while there is still a lack of locations for large projects, he said.

Speaking about tourism, an industry that he has placed great emphasis on, Počivalšek said he saw consolidating state-owned tourism firms and liberalising hospitality as some of the main tasks.

He expects Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) to implement the portion of the national asset management strategy which determines that a tourist division will be established at SSH by pooling together all state-owned tourism companies.

The companies would be consolidated and then privatised in a prudent manner. This process "just been started, and I believe we're going to make it."

However, the minister reiterated there was strong opposition to the restructuring plans, as some would like to see state-owned tourism assets sold cheaply.

He believes tourism company Sava's plan to take over coastal hotel chain operator Hoteli Bernardin is the start of the consolidation drive.

"In tourism, we need small, mid-sized and some large companies. If we want to be a serious player, we need two or three larger companies."

Sava has undoubtedly the potential to be one of them, said Počivalšek, who expects the large companies to be able to invest both in Slovenia and abroad.


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