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Thursday, December 1, 2022

(100 Days Of The Golob Government) Wrong Priorities, Slowness, Personnel Changes, Communication Slip-Ups, Political Affairs

By: Sara Kovač / Nova24tv

This week marks the first 100 days of the government of Robert Golob. The parties that are part of the current government have promised a different policy and better communication, assuring that they have a whole bunch of ideas for timely action to mitigate the coming crisis. If under the previous government we saw rapid action to mitigate the covid crisis, that is not the case this time. Representatives of the business sector have made their dissatisfaction no secret, and it was particularly evident in the recent meeting between Prime Minister Robert Golob and entrepreneurs. Political analyst Dr Matevž Tomšič believes that the first few months of the government of Robert Golob being in power have been characterised by misplaced priorities.

Under the previous, Janša government, we emerged as a winner from the covid crisis, which is reflected in favourable economic indicators. Thanks to Janša’s government, we even ranked in first place in economic growth among the countries of the European Union. Today, however, we are facing a difficult test: we are facing an energy crisis, a rise in inflation and the prices of energy, including electricity, which are higher and higher every day. In July of this year, we recorded the highest inflation rate in a single month since August 1995. Inflation recorded at an annual level was 11 percent. Therefore, in one year, the cost of living has risen by 11 percent. The prices of goods are 14 percent higher on average, while the prices of services are 5.3 percent higher. And the list goes on. Members of the opposition believe that the Golob government has not lived up to the high expectations set before the national elections. “Robert Golob’s government was more asleep than not for its first hundred days in office,” commented MP Jelka Godec from the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS).

They are tentative and slow in tackling the rising prices of energy and food
Political analyst Dr Matevž Tomšič believes that the first few months of the current government’s term have been marked by misplaced priorities. The government has prioritised matters related to various human resources aspects and, above all, to the pursuit of certain ideological goals. “After all, we can see this when we look at what was most important to them, namely, to change the Radio-Television Slovenia Act as soon as possible, where they broke all the rules that existed. They tried to do something through various procedures, which are not meant to be used in such cases, with the goal, of course, of replacing the management and the governing bodies of the national media outlet as soon as possible. People who they are bothered by and who are supposedly supporters of the previous government should be removed,” he stressed, adding that in the meantime, they were tentative and slow in addressing the issue of the rising prices of energy and food. Here, Tomšič said, there have been a number of missteps made, along with lots of poor communication. As an example of their unwise communication, he pointed to the situation where there was a shortage of fuel at the gas stations. “You could say that the government put particular interests first instead of what concerns the majority of citizens.”

There have been a number of mistakes made in the area of communication
Tomšič pointed out that the government has a large majority in the National Assembly, and the largest government party won the elections convincingly, which means that this momentum of support is continuing. This support cannot just disappear in a few months. However, Tomšič believes that if this continues, meaning if the government does not face up to current problems, things could change quickly. He said that while Prime Minister Robert Golob has leadership skills, the question is whether he is decisive on the right issues. Tomšič pointed to the Prime Minister’s communication slip-ups. As an example, he mentioned Golob’s advice on treating covid with salt water and sunshine. “That was quite a burlesque statement. It all came out very frivolous. Given that those who are now in power blamed the previous government for poor communication, we have to admit here that there were quite a few mistakes made in the area of communication.”

Given the enthusiasm of the current coalition partners when the government was formed, we wanted to know how Tomšič sees the current situation. He said that this was a show for the public and that there was not much mutual affection there, the only common point being the opposition to Janez Janša. “Janez Janša is now part of the opposition, and they are in power. The external catalyst no longer plays such a prominent role. Although they are in power, relations are anything but idyllic. This coalition was formed, of course, because it was necessary to satisfy all the interests of those who believe that they are responsible for the change of power. After all, it was not necessary for the Left party (Levica) to be part of the government, as the coalition would have had enough votes without them,” he explained, adding that certain pre-election favours had to be cashed in. The inclusion of the Left party in the government was a concession to the left-wing non-governmental parties and the circle around the Left party.

Tomšič has noticed certain problematic issues related to the Left party. “This recent affair is linked to a certain part of the cultural and artistic scene, which means that it is a circle that is somehow also part of the supporters of the left-wing pole, and especially the Left party. This undoubtedly does not have a positive impact on their public image,” he asserted, adding that this party could turn out to be a burden for the government and the Prime Minister.

Tomšič has also noticed that ever since the Golob government took office, the boundaries between politics, government (the executive branch of power) and civil society began to blur. It is as if everything is somehow mixed up. “Things are becoming similar to the situation we knew under the former communist regime when we had the so-called socio-political organisations. So, some organisations that were supposed to be civil associations were actually part of the government. Organisations such as the Institute of the 8th of March (Inštitut 8. marec) actually function as a kind of socio-political organisation in the former regime. We cannot really talk about an independent civil society here. These organisations are part of a conglomerate of power. They are mutually dependent on each other,” Tomšič explained, pointing out that compared to the previous government, one can see a completely different attitude of the mainstream media towards the government. He said this is due to the fact that there is a realisation that without the media, the government would not be able to govern at all.

Entrepreneurs are worried, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Craft and Small Businesses are expecting more measures
“If this continues, we will have to start closing down businesses and sending people to the Employment Service of Slovenia,” small entrepreneurs and craftsmen are saying with concern, according to the MMC web portal. Tibor Šimonka, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, did not hide his disappointment that the government of Robert Golob has not promised to put a limit on the price of energy products for the economy. Šimonka pointed out that the situation is alarming, and for this reason alone, a more positive response would have been expected. “If no limit is set, the damage to the Slovenian economy could be in the range of several billion euros, from five to ten, in the next year,” he was critical. He stressed that it would be somewhat disingenuous of him if he said that the economic sector is satisfied with the recent meeting they had with the government. Namely, it is known that the economic sector proposed that a limit be introduced for the prices of energy, but the government decided against it. “Apparently, in Europe, too, some lobbies are so strong that there will be no limit introduced, even though the European Commission promised to do this in May,” Šimonka added, among other things.

Blaž Cvar of the Slovenian Chamber of Craft and Small Businesses warns that the state’s intention to help companies by subsidising at least 30 percent of electricity and gas costs when these climb above twice the 2021 price increase will not be sufficient for many companies. The Slovenian Chamber of Craft and Small Businesses also believes that the draft amendments to the Income Tax Act should be withdrawn. In their opinion, the changes need to be coherent and well thought out. “Frequent changes in legislation, both tax and other, weaken the competitive position of Slovenian companies,” Cvar was quoted saying by the Slovenian Press Agency, adding that the economy sector undoubtedly needs a tax environment that is stable. “In these uncertain times, when the economy is facing an energy crisis, additional burdens on the economy are not acceptable at all.”

In a recent interview with the Siol media outlet, economist Igor Masten also made it clear that the situation is serious, giving five laconic tips on how to get through the winter. He advises lowering the temperature in your flat, growing your own garden, not making irrational purchases, not buying a flat, and waiting to buy a new car. He says that he understands that politics is in the public popularity market and, therefore, making promises is an attractive idea. But measures such as state intervention and price controls in a complex economic system, he says, almost always backfire. “They are a failed instrument.” Masten believes that it is essential that measures are robust and simple. “But they should also not require excessive micromanagement. For example, it is not a good idea to complicate wheat purchase guarantees… On the one hand, it makes sense to limit prices or to reduce value-added tax. This reduces the cost pressures on companies, and they will either not lay off people, or they will not raise the prices of their products. But this means that there will be a bigger hole in public finances and also more borrowing,” he said, adding that this is much more difficult to do today than it was a year ago.

“The government is making big announcements. What it is saying sounds good. But after 100 days in office, they could have moved on from announcing what they are going to do already,” former politician and businessman Marko Pavlišič pointed out on the show Faktor. He gave the example of the Minister of Health, who predicted a stress test for the health sector, saying that they would do everything in their power to fix the situation. “And 100 days later, he is still saying the same thing. There is also the food intervention related to Ukraine, where it was announced that the state would buy all Slovenian wheat, that the warehouses would then be full, and everything would be prepared for the future, but we all know how that story ended.” Although economist Marko Pahor of the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics believes that the government did not make any major mistakes in its initial period in office, he admits that it has been relatively slow in its actions. “But the government is about to face bigger challenges, as we are entering a recession, so it will also be important to draw the EU Funds quickly and spend them wisely,” he told the Slovenian Press Agency.

The opposition expects swifter action
The Slovenian Democratic Party and the New Slovenia party (Nova Slovenija – NSi) are convinced that the government has not lived up to the high expectations set before the elections. While the opposition acknowledges that there are challenges, they say the government should have reacted more efficiently and quickly. Jelka Godec, leader of the SDS parliamentary group, expressed her belief that the government had more or less slept through its first 100 days in office. Godec said that they had expected “more committed work and immediate action in the face of the current challenges related to the rising prices of food and energy, as well as in preparation for a possible resumption of the covid-19 epidemic in autumn.” She believes that the measures to curb the rising costs were sent to MPs at a time when it is already quite late to start tackling this. Therefore, according to her, the measures are “more of a palliative sting than something that actually solves the situation.”

“The start of the new government’s term has been rather unconvincing, the government team is inexperienced and often uncoordinated, which is also visible in the delays, in the bad, flawed proposals for measures,” the leader of the NSi MPs, Janez Cigler Kralj, told the Slovenian Press Agency, expressing his belief that this is a bad prospect for the coming crisis. There is concern in the party, however, that “the country’s economic policy is actually being led by the left.”

Given all of the commentary on the first 100 days of the Golob government, we can conclude that these are 100 days of lost opportunities that a capable government would have spent in a much better way – for the benefit of the people and the economy.

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