The Slovenia Times

Sabotaging Progress


A Word from the Editor

The pension reform campaign has been in full swing with Borut Pahor's government and opposing sides at loggerheads and each desperate to win the vote. A legion of esteemed individuals and organisations are battling it out with trade unions and those who have been established to be the voice of the "less privileged". While most of the time the government is using an approach based on rational argument, those opposing reform are going for a more populist approach. It is a tactic which threatens to hold the country hostage in its plans to overcome the crisis and prepare for future challenges.

Slovenia's biggest trade union ZSSS is making the majority of the populist and essentially counter-productive arguments to pension reform. One of ZSSS' suggestions on how to fill the public purse without changing the retirement age is to raise taxes. Now that is one original and ingenious idea. In a country already heavily criticised for its high taxes, the nation's largest trade union wants to raise them even more. ZSSS and its president Dušan Semolič seem oblivious to the fact that one of Slovenia's biggest problems is attracting high-calibre professionals and keeping its own talented sons and daughters working in the country. And why is it a problem? Because of the high proportion of wages which already go on taxes.

ZSSS also has other brilliant alternatives such as the need to create more jobs. Unfortunately the union does not seem to have any concrete suggestions as to how the government might actually achieve that.

What is alarming is that Semolič's arguments appeal to the proportion of the population which has already lost faith in the current ruling collation. This means that the referendum is in danger of turning into a vote on the government rather than a vote on pension reform. To be fair, ZSSS is not solely to blame for this. However, it is a worrying fact that trade unions have this much power in a country which desperately needs to become more competitive - and which needs to adopt radical measures in order to do so.

But it seems that lessons are not being learnt. If there is one thing that Slovenia is criticised for more than its high taxes, it is its ridiculous level of bureaucracy. Yet there is another form filling exercise which is threatening to come our way. If the amendment of the family law passes, obligatory registration of common-law marriage will effectively be introduced in Slovenia. The original purpose of the amendment was to institute gay marriage. But after strong opposition from an alliance of conservative pro-family groups and the centre-right opposition, the government was forced to draft a watered down compromise proposal, which excludes gay marriage.

So now we are looking at an amendment which not only fails to give gay couples the equal right to marry if they so wish, but one which imposes a bureaucratic burden on cohabiting heterosexual couples. Rather than resolving a problem, the new bill is simply introducing new ones.

What is worrying is that on a macro level, Slovenia seems to have this habit of creating more problems than it solves. And this seems to be breeding an army of saboteurs such as ZSSS whose narrow focus on narrow interests risks holding the country back rather than driving it forward. It is a very concerning situation.


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