Government appointed, time comes to deliver


Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has repeatedly listed healthcare as the top priority of his government, and the one that will be the most demanding too.

The task at hand will be to reduce excessively long waiting times for medical procedures, something that will also take extra funds. Samo Fakin, the new health minister, believes that wait times can be eliminated at the cost of EUR 100m.

In presenting his cabinet to parliament today, Šarec said it would take "not just money, but also organisational measures and enough capacities, and, above all, enough staff".

He expects the Health Ministry to work hand in glove with health institutions, or else it would be impossible to achieve anything. Finance, expertise and cooperation would be key to success.

The ruling coalition has pledged to increase public funding of healthcare to 9% of GDP. A major challenge will be ensuring the sustainability of the public health insurance fund. The coalition also plans to scrap up top-up insurance now needed for virtually all services.

Another major challenge awaiting the government will be pay talks with public sector trade unions. Šarec's predecessor in office, Miro Cerar, stepped down before his government reached a deal on pay demands set by a variety of groups of public employees worth more than EUR 100m.

The coalition also plans to reform the public sector pay system so it would better reflect the diverse features of individual professions and to make it more performance-based.

The new government has also promised to upgrade the public procurement system, streamline the state administration and to give more powers and responsibility to local communities.

In dealing with healthcare and public sector pay demands the government will need to strike the right balance between the wishes and financial means at its disposal.

The budget for 2019 will be adjusted to the commitments set out in the coalition agreement. The government has also committed to fiscal sustainability and the fiscal rule of a balanced budget.

One source of new income would be planned changes to the taxation of corporate incomes and capital gains, something that has caused a furore in the business world.

The coalition agreement includes quite a few social equality measures put forward by the Left, which has struck a partnership deal with the Šarec minority government.

In a bid to make the burden of employers and employees more proportionate, contributions rates for pension and disability insurance for companies are to be gradually raised.

The government also plans to set up a demographic fund to shore up the pension system, adopt legislation on long-term care and raise pensions, social benefits, and a jobseeker's pay and the minimum wage.

The question is whether the coalition and the Left will be able to reconcile their positions on state assets, in particular as the coalition is determined to sell NLB bank. Meanwhile, the first test for the minority government will be appointing the governor of the central bank.

In foreign affairs, the government is expected to broadly stay on the same course as so far, although Miro Cerar, the new foreign minister, has announced a "more balanced" foreign policy when it comes to the country's relations with the US and Russia.

Cerar will insist on Croatia's respecting international law and the border arbitration award. Another major challenge under his term will be presiding over the Council of the EU in 2021.

National security is another priority, in particular in light of migration flows. The border fence will stay in place until the situation is deemed right for its removal.

The long-overdue overhaul of the national security system is also in the pipeline and the country is expected to get a new national security resolution.

A major investment project handed down by the previous government is the construction of a new railway connecting the Koper port.

In development and infrastructure, the coalition has promised to aspire for a balance with it commitment to take care of the environment.

The coalition has also promised more funds for science, sports and culture, as well as affordable rental housing and an apprenticeship scheme for young people.

The government will consider amending the voting system to give voters more say on who gets elected, and designating an extra voting day and extending opening times of polling stations.