The Slovenia Times

PM Cerar Finally Found Credible Economy Minister



Cerar made the announcement after a meeting of the government coalition partners on Wednesday, and the news was subsequently also confirmed by Počivalšek.

The 57-year-old businessman said that he would take part in a hearing before the relevant parliamentary committee next week, but would not provide more comment before then.

Cerar said he was happy that Počivalšek, the winner of the 2010 Manager of the Year Award given out by the Manager Association, had decided to take on the challenge.

The non-party candidate was the favourite all along, but "needed a little while to make the decision", said Cerar.

One of the factors in his decision was the future of Terme Olimia, which had seen steady expansion under Počivalšek since he took over as general manager in 1999.

The prime minister said this was also the reason that the announcement of a new candidate for economy minister had taken a little longer. He announced that the coalition partners were happy with his choice.

This was confirmed by senior officials from the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Social Democrats (SD), who said they were "pleasantly surprised" with the selection of Počivalšek.

SD deputy group leader Matjaž Han, who was recently critical of complications surrounding the nomination of a new economy minister, said today the wait paid dividends.

Počivalšek has proven with his work that he is a good manager and has a good overview of tourism, said Han, adding that he will be a good defender of business.

This was echoed by DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec and MP Franc Jurša, who said that Počivalšek's achievements "speak for themselves".

Meanwhile, the opposition was more restrained in its response to Cerar's announcement, saying that while they have no major complaints, they need to hear his programme in parliament first.

The anti-capitalist United Left (ZL) is "especially keen to hear" what kind of economic policy Počivalšek intends to lead, with MP Luka Mesec saying that they do not know enough at the moment to pass judgement on the candidate.

The conservative New Slovenia (NSi) on the other hand is more upbeat, assessing that Počivalšek might well be the right person for the job, although they too want to hear his vision.

The liberal Alliance of Alenka Bratušek (ZaAB) believes Počivalšek seems like a natural choice and hopes that "first impressions aren't misleading". It warned that being a good business official is no guarantee for being a good minister.

The Democrats (SDS) did not immediately comment on the proposal, announcing that they would do so at a press conference scheduled for Thursday.

The nomination was immediately hailed by Slovenia's business organisations, including the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS), which had proposed Počivalšek for the position last year.

The OZS, Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) and Manager Association all believe that Počivalšek is a candidate who can produce the measures needed to provide business and the economy with a much-needed lift.

An agronomist by training, Počivalšek has spent most of his career in business, acting as general manager at dairy Mlekarne Celeia before joining Terme Olimia.

His management experience dates back to the mid-1980s when he was a member of a crisis management team tasked with turning around the agricultural cooperative in Šmarje pri Jelšah, of which he later became general manager.

He also heads the Tourism and Hospitality Chamber at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which honoured him for special achievements in business in 2004.

The post of minister of economic development and technology has been vacant since Jožef Petrovič quit on 17 October after barely a month on the job.

The surprise resignation was caused by findings of the competition watchdog that the company where Petrovič used to be a director had colluded to fix the prices of office supplies sold to the government.


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