Opposition critical of resilience plan, businesses expected more grants

Ljubljana – The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) has welcomed Slovenia’s recovery and resilience plan that the government adopted on Wednesday as a huge step forward from a previous version. Nevertheless, the chamber wants to see more grant funds. The opposition is meanwhile critical of the plan, saying it lacks environmental investments.

The plan envisages EUR 2.5 billion worth of measures, with Slovenia counting on EUR 1.8 billion in grants and EUR 666 million in loans.

Slovenia could have asked for EUR 3.6 billion in loans, but the government decided for a more restrictive approach for now. The country may still request for more loan funds later on, Development and EU Cohesion Policy Minister Zvonko Černač said today.

“We all expected more. Above all more grants,” GZS executive director Mitja Gorenšček told the STA on Thursday. Businesses would like to see more grants above all for green and digital transition projects. “So that we could overhaul the economy with the goal the GZS has set years ago: to boost the value added.”

A majority of the funds is to go into public infrastructure, with the GZS expecting businesses to benefit as well, as they will be the ones performing the work.

Gorenšček is optimistic that the plan will fulfil its objective and shares Černač’s view that Slovenia will be able to request more loan funds later on.

Also responding to the unveiled plan, the opposition said today that the government intended to make use of merely half of the funds at its disposal. Moreover, the strategy lacks investments in projects that have a positive impact on the environment, opposition parties noted.

MP Nik Prebil of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said that the fact that Slovenia was refraining from EUR 3 billion in loan funds showed that the government did not have a vision for development and was not forward-looking.

According to him, the reason for requesting less funds than are available could only be that the government does not wish any scrutiny regarding what it would earmark the money for.

Prebil also said that the plan indicated that Slovenia would not be taking out loans for digitalisation and sustainable development projects.

Milan M. Cvikl, the head of the SocDems finance, development and cohesion council, told the STA that the government had initially said it would request all the funds available. In ten months, the government has managed to come up with projects that would require less than a half of what is at Slovenia’s disposal, he said.

The reasons for such an approach are not entirely clear, Cvikl said, pointing out that one of the possible explanations could be a lack of an agreement between the government and the EU Commission on joint planning and implementation of these projects.

The government could also potentially “wish to allocate grants only to their own in an Orban-like way” or it could be that the government did not take into account the period after the next general election, he said.

The final version is better than the initial draft as it is similar to an alternative resilience plan as proposed by the opposition, Cvikl said, highlighting that the more restrictive approach in requesting less loans pointed to the government’s incompetence.

The head of the opposition Left Luka Mesec told the STA that the government “does not take the climate crisis and environmental collapse seriously”.

The final version is an improvement on the draft as the government has removed the most contentious projects, but the number of projects that would benefit the environment has not increased, he noted, explaining that rail or renewable energy investments had not been scaled-up.

As a result, the government is less ambitious, Mesec said, adding that a great opportunity to use EU funds to prepare the country for major challenges would thus go wasted.

Andrej Rajh, an MP of the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), also said that the government’s decision to request less loan funds indicated that it lacked relevant know-how or ideas.

Moreover, the plan is proof that the government does not understand that green development is the only right way for the country, he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the opposition National Party (SNS) Zmago Jelinčič noted that it was still an option to fund additional projects under the grant scheme or to expand the existing ones.

The opposition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) has not responded to the STA’s request for comment so far.