The Slovenia Times

Šarec: No generosity without structural measures


Noting that labour taxes were still rather high while corporate profit taxes were relatively low, Šarec said tax legislation would have to be overhauled. "This will have to be balanced, yet not with any extremes."

Responding to the fears of some businesses that certain planned measures would affect them, he said all social partners would be engaged in social dialogue.

Labelling the businesses' first reactions exaggerate, he said: "This is like marriage - if there are problems, you don't get a divorce right away, but talk it through and find a solution."

"If the economy works, we'll all benefit from it," he said, stressing balance rather than competition is what is needed between the economy and welfare state.

Šarec understands the need for higher social transfers, saying expenditure would have to be reformed so that those who were really in need received the needed help.

He is also aware of the need to raise the monthly minimum wage, which is currently at 638 euro net. "There was perhaps too much focus on economic growth in the past, which had whetted certain appetites," he said adding that the growth had come after a slump during the economic crisis and that Slovenia was just now returning to the pre-crisis levels.

He also stressed the government was working on a sustainable supplementary budget for 2019, but added he would think about pegging it to a vote of confidence only "in case of a dispute about who plays first fiddle on the Titanic".

As for waiting times in healthcare, he said "the first measure was 35 million euro, another 100 million will follow in the future, so there should be enough money".

He believes "the situation can be resolved if there are no losses, strikes and if work is properly organised".

Still, with calls for some professions to be excluded from the single pay system for the public sector, Šarec did not announce any such changes for now.

"Any such intervention into the system would trigger unimagined consequences, but it will have to be revised at a certain point in the long-run."

Although he would like the overdue demographic fund to be formed to help make the pension system more sustainable, Šarec said it would be pretentious to say this would happen under his government.

However, the government will undertake the structural reforms it had announced as soon as possible and without commissioning new analyses or strategies.

"Analyses are the death of the Slovenian nation. If you're hungry, a vision that you'll get a meal on 15 December next year is of no help," he illustrated.

Turning to the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, Šarec, whose LMŠ party recently joined the ALDE grouping, is in favour of a joint bid of all Slovenian ALDE members.

However, he expects the candidate of his LMŠ as the ALDE-affiliated party which won the most votes in this year's election at home to top a joint list of candidates.

With the interim European Commission's term running out on 1 November 2019, Šarec said his government had not yet engaged in a debate on Slovenia's new commissioner.

Although the government appointed a task force to prepare the country for its EU presidency in 2021, Šarec admitted "we're several months behind".

He noted that some 75 million euro would have to be allocated for the stint, some 350 people employed on a temporary basis and the diplomatic mission in Brussels shored up.

He said Slovenia had not yet identified its priorities and would discuss them with Germany and Portugal as the countries presiding the EU before and after it.

"But of course it's good if every presiding member adds a topic or two of its own to the ones on the table at that time."

Commenting on France and Germany's idea about a European army, Šarec said: "This is not a bad idea, but it is just an idea until we've implemented it".

He said Europe had lived in a kind of bubble assuming it was safe, but then realised, also because the US and other powers changed their ways, it would have to do something about its security. "The question is how to get there."

Šarec announced his visits to Austria and Hungary, saying he also had an invitation to visit Croatia, with which Slovenia has the open issue of implementation of the 2017 border arbitration ruling.

He does not see a chance for a breakthrough as long as Croatia has not accepted the ruling, but asked when he could visit Zagreb, he said: "Well, this day is also sure to come."

In Hungary, he plans to get an answer as to whether the country's decision to pull out of Slovenia's rail expansion between the port of Koper and Divača was final.

"At the moment, I can't say how things develop, nor whether I'm in favour of Hungary's cooperation. I'm awaiting a detailed report from the Infrastructure Ministry."

However, Šarec considers it a disgrace that Slovenia "is not able to build several kilometres of rail track" on its own, noting "the state could learn a lot from municipalities".

As for privatisation, Šarec noted it called for "sober reflection on what to sell", stressing not all the cases of privatisation had proved sensible.

This is the reason why coalition partners pledged in the coalition agreement to overhaul the state assets management strategy, he explained.

Šarec, who said that "sometimes it is better not to sell but put wise people on the management boards", also believes Slovenia needs a systemic bank.

As for his resolute leadership style, he said he was "sometimes impossible for some, but I want things to get done (...) Kamnik has already got familiar with my determination, now the rest of Slovenia is getting to know it."


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