GZS summit sees companies progressing, challenges remain
GZS chairman Boštjan Gorjup said that the slogan of the 14th business summit, Slovenia Goes Forward, meant that the chamber was aware that business executives believed in their capabilities and saw numerous opportunities for development.
According to Gorjup, Slovenian companies have made very good results in recent years, with gross domestic product (GDP), exports, added value and investments growing. "In a decade, we have been transformed from one of the biggest European patients into one of the most dynamic and successful economies."
The open development issues and challenges could only be solved by all social partners together, he said, adding that the GZS was investing effort to draft an acceptable, but also an ambitious social pact.
Gorjup also believes that together, social partners are able to create a coalition for sustainable development of the country. The chambers sees the Japanese concept of society 5.0, where technological progress is used to improve the quality of life, as a way to realise this dream, he added.
The summit was also attended by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who said that the government wanted to cooperate and implement the slogan, adding that the real sector and the public sector were equally important.
Commenting on the reproaches that politicians frequently do not understand businesses, Šarec said that "we must understand each other" and noted that the government had fully abolished taxation of holiday allowance this year and made some additional tax changes.
According to him, by doing so the government tried to encourage domestic consumption, but this could never replace exports, where a certain slowdown is expected.
"We wanted to trigger growth, but Banka Slovenije cancelled it out immediately by making lending standards stricter," he was again critical of the move by the banking regulator introduced on 1 November.
"This measure is certainly not good," he said, adding that institutions which had influence on the economic policy and people's lives should work hand in hand.
GZS director general Sonja Šmuc pointed to the objectives of the development partnership of three generations 2018-2025, which is being drafted by the GZS. These are EUR 50 billion in exports, EUR 60,000 in average added value per employee and EUR 2,000 in average monthly gross wage.
Šmuc stressed that Slovenian companies had doubled sales and added value since 2009, with exports more than doubling, the average gross wage increasing by a third, and indebtedness of companies dropping well below the EU average.
Economic growth is higher than the EU average by two-thirds, general government debt as a share of GDP is decreasing, she said, adding that productivity remained a great challenge as Slovenia still lagged behind the EU average while wages were outgrowing productivity.
Šmuc also pointed to the number of jobs being record-high, while noting that more than 70,000 persons were still unemployed, many of them being long-term unemployed or structurally unemployed persons.
"We have apparently reached a new level of structural unemployment," she said, wondering how the upcoming rise in the minimum wage would impact the labour market.
Among other challenges, the GZS director general mentioned growth of investments, which remain under the long-term average despite low indebtedness and high creditworthiness of companies.
This is not a good foundation for further growth, Šmuc said, adding that there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of expenditure for research and development, innovation and digitalisation of the economy and society as a whole.
According to her, businesses also want better waste management, improved infrastructure, measures for energy transition, introduction of a dual education system, a more efficient public sector and better corporate management.