The Slovenia Times

Year into office, govt pledges to fight Covid on, implement coalition agreement


Brdo pri Kranju - Prime Minister Janez Janša pledged for the government to respond to a third wave of the coronavirus epidemic, which he said could realistically be expected, and implement key commitments in the coalition agreement, as he addressed reporters with the other coalition leaders a day before a year will have passed since his government assumed office.

Looking back on the first year, Janša said the government spent 80% of its energy fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, assessing that the challenge was beyond compare in history, except possibly for the independence period.

Apart from the fight against Covid-19, Janša said the government's key projects in the year ahead to the regular election would be de-bureaucratisation, decentralisation, tackling long-term care, as well as reforming the public sector pay system where the "health sector has decided to get extracted from the single pay system and a new one will be built specifically for the sector".

"If there are no major surprises, we can make up for last year's contraction in GDP this year," the prime minister was confident.

He expects the de-bureaucratisation bill to be adopted by the government on Thursday and implemented by summer in a first legislative package, with others to follow by the year's end.

"Once they are passed, Slovenia will be a different country, a leaner, cheaper, people will get services sooner and those will be more efficient," Janša announced.

A bill that will also envisage financial resources of long term-care will hit parliamentary benches by September, thus meeting a goal set out in many coalition agreements, he announced.

Praising the sacrifice of health staff, Janša said the Covid-19 epidemic also laid bare the problems in the health system, including staff shortages, which Janša said was in part due to the inappropriate pay system.

Based on a new pay system for healthcare, Janša expects more staff could be secured in the long term and other needed reorganisations put in place.

Janša said the government's effort could be measured with measures in the eight coronavirus relief packages. "Comparing them with measures in other EU countries, we are the only to address all groups of the population."

As a result, the projections of a 7% contraction in GDP, 120,000 people out of a job and much higher budget deficit made at the start of the epidemic have not come true, said Janša, noting the jobless total is below 90,000 and the economic contraction lower.

The press conference, held at Brdo estate, also featured Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek as the leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and by video link Defence Minister Matej Tonin as the leader of New Slovenia (NSi), as well as Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek, who comes from the ranks of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), the party that formally quit the coalition at the end of last year.

Janša said Podgoršek was taking part as minister. As long as he enjoys the support of the DeSUS deputy group, he can continue to work in the government, also as a link with DeSUS MPs, the prime minister explained.

Should anyone else from the opposition opt for cooperation, Janša said the coalition would welcome the move, while they expected the opposition not to put spokes in the government's wheels in the coronavirus measures. "Let measures not be toppled because it is to the detriment of all."

Economy Minister Počivalšek noted the series of economic relief packages, which he said "preserved most jobs and kept the economy in shape as a basis for a quick economic recovery going forward. We preserved robust industry, construction and helped the services sector."

"The job remains preserving jobs, so we'll continue with aid measures," he said, announcing that he would visit Ormož today after the Italian group Safilo announced yesterday it would close its eyewear plant there in June, putting 557 jobs at risk.

"The government has enough funds to continue measures protecting jobs, we will continue with investment incentive measures and I believe we'll find a solution for that part as well," he said, referring to Ormož, while promising they would fight for every job, in particular on the periphery.

Like Janša, he too believes Slovenia is well prepared to make up for last year's economic contraction in the shortest times possible, pointing to stable public finances, strong liquidity of the banking sector and strong and ambitious economy.

Agriculture Minister Podgoršek noted measures to help pensioners and mitigate the Covid crisis in agriculture, saying that more than EUR 300 million had been paid out to beneficiaries as part of the common agricultural and fisheries policy under the incumbent government, with additional EUR 200 million each this year and the next.

All government officials argued the decision to join the Janša government was the right one and that the government had achieved a lot and this was no time to fight.

NSi leader Tonin noted the projects in charge of the party's ministers, including the upcoming launch of construction of the Koper-Divača rail track and the north-south expressway, construction of retirement homes and staffing up the Armed Forces.


More from Politics