Prominent economist Jože Mencinger dies aged 81

Ljubljana – Economist Jože Mencinger, the economy minister in the first Slovenian government and a key voice of Slovenia’s economic transition in the 1990s, has died aged 81, according to the STA’s unofficial information.

Unofficial sources at the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business and the Institute of Economics at the Faculty of Law (EIPF) in Ljubljana confirmed the information for the STA.

Mencinger made a name for himself as a macroeconomist, particularly in the field of economic systems, econometric analysis and current economic policy trends.

Born in the north-western town of Jesenice in 1941, he graduated from the Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 1964 and continued his studies at the Belgrade Faculty of Economics, where he obtained his Master’s degree in 1966, reads his biography on the website of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), where he was a full member.

In 1975, under the mentorship of US economist Lawrence R. Klein, who later received the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences, Mencinger obtained his PhD.

From 1988 until his retirement in 2014, he was a professor of economic system and policy at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law and from 1993 to 2001 he was EIPF head. In the 1998-2005 period, he was rector of the University of Ljubljana, which awarded him the title of professor emeritus upon his retirement.

Between 1990 and 1991, he was Slovenia’s first economy minister and deputy prime minister responsible for economic issues under the then Demos coalition.

Holding these positions, he drafted a proposal for a fundamental systemic law on property reform, but his gradual and pragmatic approach to the introduction of reforms came into conflict with the concept of the so-called shock therapy that was introduced by US economist Jeffrey Sachs, so Mencinger resigned.

A kind of middle-ground privatisation model then prevailed in Slovenia, a compromise between Sachs’s fast-track and Mencinger’s gradual approach, according to the Ljubljana Institute for Contemporary History.

Mencinger was a visiting professor at most European universities, as well as in China, Japan and the US. He was a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the council of the Slovenian central bank, the National Council and the Fiscal Council.

He was one of the founding members of Forum 21, a leftist group co-founded by Slovenia’s first President Milan Kučan, and received the title of city freeman by both the Jesenice and Ljubljana municipalities.

A number of senior officials conveyed condolences to Mencinger’s family on social media.

President Borut Pahor wrote: “On the occasion of the death of the academic, Dr Jože Mencinger, the first economy minister and deputy prime minister in the independence-era Demos government, an acclaimed economist and former rector of the University of Ljubljana, I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family.”

“We are saddened to learn of the death of Dr Jože Mencinger, an academic, former Slovenian deputy prime minister and economy minister in 1990-1991. We would like to express heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” the government tweeted.

“A great man, a great professor and a great expert has left us. Deeply saddened, I offer my sincere condolences to his family,” wrote Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan. Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon also expressed condolences.

“The father of our economic independence is gone,” tweeted MEP Milan Brglez (S&D/SD). “He had an incisive mind and a sense of witty metaphors. There are not many like him,” said former Justice Minister Aleš Zalar.