Austerity to Headline Parliament Session
After marathon debates on the government's austerity proposals last week, lawmakers are only scheduled to be in session for two days and debate four bills at their regular session for May. The highlight of the session will be questions time, when Prime Minister Janez Janša and his cabinet will be quizzed about the measures passed last week and follow-up measures to deal with the crisis.
The opposition has registered questions about the danger of Slovenia falling into an austerity-debt spiral that would further weaken the country's economy and possible layoffs in the public sector for the prime minister. The coalition question for Janša will come from the ranks of the Citizens' List (DL), which will ask about follow up measures to kick-start the country's economy. The session comes hot on the heels of the emergency session dedicated to debating the government's austerity package which envisages EUR 500m in spending cuts on the public sector and welfare in order to bring the budget deficit to 3% of GDP this year.
The government prepared the package in response to Slovenia's ballooning public debt, which although still low by EU standards at 50% of GDP has doubled since the start of the economic crisis. While the government argues that Slovenia has no choice but to make cuts in public spending, especially on account of the public sector, in order to avoid over indebtedness and to make room for measures aimed at boosting the economy, the opposition is not convinced.
Both opposition parties fear that cuts in public spending will only further weaken Slovenia's economy, which the European Commission forecast in a report released last week will contract by 1.4% this year. They would like to see more measures taken on the revenue side of the budget and more investments in public works.
The government has said it will follow up the austerity measures with a package of revenue-side measures as well as a number of proposals for restarting the country's economy by making the business environment more appealing for investors. One such measure is the changes to the takeover act, which MPs will debate at the session. The bill, which appears to enjoy broad backing, will raise the ownership threshold at which a shareholder must publish a takeover bid from 25% to a third of all voting shares.
In proposing the law, the government explained that the measure is aimed at making Slovenia's share market more appealing by increasing the currently low takeover threshold to a level comparable to that in other EU countries. The takeover law is one of only four bills the MPs will debate at the session. Another motion are changes to the VAT act that will reintroduce the possibility for deducting VAT for unpaid bills.