The Slovenia Times

Light at the End of the Tunnel?



The whole crusade against it makes total sense, but there's a problem: radical estimates suggests that around 80 percent of jobs in Slovenia were arranged through personal connections. That means that many who moan over the situation actually benefited from it.
We may start out as idealistic job seekers, but most of us soon realise that many job adverts are placed just to follow procedure - the one who gets the job will be the one who was "recommended". Realise that, and it's not long before you give in and start inviting people to dinners and cultivating useful friendships.
When these practices happen in the world of small business and lower bureaucracy, and when favours represent nothing more than an invitation to a barbeque, it's easy to dismiss it as harmless. It's when such an attitude extends to the world of multi-million Euro deals between the state and privately owned business that it's time to worry. This sort of thing might have been widely accepted practice in times of socialism, but the problem is that the change of system has done nothing to eradicate it. On the contrary: by lifting restraints on individual wealth, it's actually made matters worse. In the past 20 years of our capitalist economy, little reward has been left for the fair-players in certain businesses. They quickly become uncompetitive and in many cases it was either accept the "rules" or stay on the margins.
The crescendo has come with the previous government's wave of privatisation and the worldwide economic crisis. State-owned banks issued loans to individuals in order buy out the shares in state-owned companies. Needless to say most people involved knew the other stakeholders well. As the economic crisis kicked in, the share values sunk far below the actual debts. The perversion became so obvious that everyone quickly realised that taxpayers are now repaying the sins of the business elite. "Tycoons" became the embodiment of corruption and clientelism and, as such, the ultimate enemies of the people.
The Commission for Prevention of Corruption, which under its new boss Goran Klemenčič has become a highly trustworthy institution, has now blessed us with a work of art. They have released a piece of online software which allows any user to peek into the transactions of budget-sponsored companies. It displays raw data which of course needs proper interpretation, but some numbers are shocking enough on first sight. It also doesn't require much analysis to find out that certain companies enjoyed enormous privileges just under a certain government. Interesting, because in the world of politics any party will always say it is "us" who are fair and transparent against "them", who are corrupt. Actually it needs to be that way, because pointing to another is a means to make the own sin more relative.
As the corruption watchdog has pointed out, Slovenian corruption is systemic, not administrative. This is a more academic rephrase of a common finding that over here it's very difficult to bribe an officer, while the state administration is highly corrupt. If this means that the individuals can keep their integrity even while the society as a whole works against it, at least some optimism remains - optimism that bad attitudes have reached their turning point. That all the bits and pieces, the revelations and the new software are leading to the conclusion that a transparent country is in everyone's interest. And that these conclusions will guide a new generation of businessmen, politicians and voters. Too much to hope for?


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