This morning, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the AmCham business breakfast, which took place in the GH Union Union Hall in Ljubljana. In a conversation with the Prime Minister, the participants discussed the strategic view of the economy and opportunities for development, key challenges and important reforms for Slovenia, Slovenia and its role in the EU - also in the light of the presidency. They also touched on transatlantic cooperation.
"Currently, our goal, which basically became a cliché phrase throughout Europe, is to recover and to increase resilience and immunity," said the Prime Minister, adding that it must be acknowledged that Slovenia in recent years has gradually become more competitive and is now over the 30th places on the world competitiveness scale. "But with the potential we have as a nation and as a country, we could be even better off," the Prime Minister stressed. He added that there is a big gap between how the economy and the private sector have adapted and how the supportive environment has adapted since the independence . "As far as the economy is concerned, there was very little lag because companies in the global and European markets had to survive even during the economic crisis. However, when it comes to the supportive environment, the lag is large," he observed. He continued, "I run the government for the third time, but unfortunately the current administration is the worst one on average, even worse than the one we inherited as the Demos government. Why? Because in this sector wage-levelling was pursued" the Prime Minister said, adding that the first government of Janez Janša systematically educated young people within the EU presidency, however, they all left abroad as they became too competitive for our environment. "Our first goal, if we talk about strategy, is to reduce this difference - bring the public sector on the appropriate level and ensures it becomes a supportive environment for the economy," he said. He continued to say that there are people in the public sector who try and work beyond what they are paid for, "but most people adjusted to wage-levelling." He added that an advisory group examining the salary system had already met yesterday.
The Prime Minister praised the Slovenian economy for appropriately dealing with the coronavirus epidemic in the spring. "Slovenia is one of the few countries that did not stop the industry completely during the spring epidemic. Wherever they could organise themselves in accordance with the new conditions and regulations, the work was normal and thus the economic consequences of the epidemic in Slovenia are at least one percent milder than in on average in Europe", noted the Prime Minister. He pointed out that in the first six months, exports fell by only a few percent, and exports are a very large generator of the GDP. "When we look at the epidemiological picture by sectors, we see that the Slovenian industry was the most seriously organised," the Prime Minister noted, adding that most of the service sector was also well organised. "Of course, some sectors of the economy that were shut down have been affected such as the event industry, and now we are addressing these problems," the prime minister stressed. Regardless of this, Prime Minister Janša is of the opinion that the spring events in the economy during the epidemic are a sign that the Slovenian economy is healthy.
Answering the question what is ahead of us in the autumn, the Prime Minister noted that "we had communicated in the spring that we would be able to survive the autumn without major restrictions until there is an effective medicine and vaccine for all, if we manage to make and use an digital infection warning application. This application is still voluntary." According to the Prime Minister, a mandatory application would work if it was made at the European level and would allow for normal border crossing, "but we don't have that." "The EU has failed to agree on this app, there are too many barriers to privacy, which is ridiculous because most of the apps we have on our smartphones collect more personal data than the coronavirus protection app," the prime minister stressed. "Many restrictions would not be necessary if everyone had the application loaded and if the measures were consistently followed," said the Prime Minister adding that epidemics has not been re-declared yet as the critical number is not the number of those infected, but the number of occupied hospital beds. "The critical limit is the capacity of the Slovenian healthcare," said Janša, adding that things are still manageable at the moment. He also stressed that we are "one of the first countries in Europe to develop a model of the plans and measures for the future, given the situation, so that things will be more predictable." He announced a public presentation of the plans shortly.
The prime minister said that for the time being, it does not appear that the economic recovery will last years, as some predict. "The Slovenian and European economies are in much better shape than in 2009 or 2008. At that time, banks were also severely affected and a lot of taxpayers' money was spent on bank rehabilitation. This time, however, it is not only about measures taken by the state, but also about measures taken by the financial sector such as deferment of payments, lending money - banks are liquid and are helping - so the situation is much more favourable, "said the Prime Minister. He added that the good result of the July European Council at least for this year solved the situation in the European economy, thus we can be optimistic about the future. "The Slovenian economy will certainly see opportunities in tenders for European funds, but the bigger problem is the supportive environment, which must be adapted to the spirit of the times in which we live," he added, stressing that we must be able to stop brain drain and attract foreign knowledge. He observed that social dialogue in Slovenia is represented primarily the voice of those who oppose any change and is unfortunately stronger than the voice of those who are aware of the real situation.
Regarding the absorption of European funds, Prime Minister Janša added that the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology is extremely in favour of cooperation with the economy and that it is important to invite businessmen to participate in the process already now when criteria and plans are being worked out and formulated. According to the Prime Minister, without participation in this phase, many opportunities will be missed. "On the one hand, we are talking about a digital Europe, about digitalisation, but when you look at the reality, European money has so far been invested mainly in the construction of cycle paths," the Prime Minister said. He further emphasised that there is nothing wrong with this, but that in his opinion most of the European funds should go to research and development, to make a product better at a particular company, for lower costs and with more automation. According to the Prime Minister, the economy should also have more connections with the scientific research sector, which should be more involved in this part of society.
Answering the question whether a private partnership could be formed for European projects, the Prime Minister said that "practice shows that where there is a direct interest, a private investor, then the project is carried out more rationally and faster and achieves its purpose. But, where this is not the case, as we can see from the practice of the last two multiannual financial frameworks, many projects are carried out in order to only draw European funds. I do not think that success is only about spending money or that something looks well in graphs and statistics. Our goal should be to invest resources productively, that is, to make something of them, and that is easier when there is a direct economic interest."
For what regards the investment in shares and development projects, as well as municipal and state bonds, the Prime Minister said that this is being discussed not only in Slovenia, but also in other European countries. "The money people saved increased during the corona crisis, grew, because it was not being spent. Now it is necessary to restore confidence in investing in government bonds and present to people the security of these investments," said Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the demographic fund. "We will certainly not undertake a comprehensive pension reform, as there is no time for that, but we will do a lot to improve the situation in the pension fund and to relieve the pressure on work," said Prime Minister Janez Janša. He assessed the Demographic Fund as a framework on the basis of which state property will no longer melt away, as appropriate criteria will be established. "We have been talking about the demographic fund for 15 years, and this is the first time we reached an agreement to simplify it, rationalise it and make it transparent, and the law is already ready," said the Prime Minister. He added that the state loses about 50 million euros as a result of the current management of state property. "It is because of the fragmentation of state property that a lot of money goes to waste," the prime minister stressed.
Speaking about foreign policy, the Prime Minister said that "we do not want to get into Sisyphus' debates about what a "core" Europe is or what it is not, what the Visegrad Group is and what the Franco-German train is. Slovenia's goal is to preserve the European Union. At the moment, Europe needs stabilisation, after a plethora of shocks - after Brexit, the coronavirus, the discussions on the new treaty - that the EU had to deal with. Additionally, recovery, resilience, and immunity must be ensured at the European level. Thus, already in the beginning of spring, we listed two priorities in the German-Portuguese -Slovenian trio programme, i.e. the preparation of a European strategic plan for defence against the pandemic and defence against cyber-attacks, "said the Prime Minister, adding that Slovenia's interest is that Europe is safe, that it develops further, that it remains within the framework, which are favourable to Slovenia, i.e, within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty.
Prime Minister Janez Janša also spoke about the digital tax. "This is more crucial for Europe than has been said so far. All IT giants are making a profit in Europe and the money flows to California. No single country is able to solve and regulate this on its own, we need the EU, we need a common table where the EU and the US can discuss this. I believe that the coming years will show that the world is still global, but that there will be additional restrictions in the areas and spheres that have proven to be critical," he concluded." It is in the interest of Europe and Slovenia that transatlantic relations are good," said Prime Minister Janez Janša, adding that the United States nowadays, for him, is still as important of a factor as it had been 30 years ago, when independent Slovenia was forming. "Strategically, Europe and the United States represent a whole in terms of values and economics, at least when it comes to the key sectors, artificial intelligence and what we see as the digital green future," he said, adding that in many parts and sectors it is about a connected whole "and that fact will dictate many relations in the future."
"Slovenia does not see itself in the conflict between Europe and the US, but we take our NATO alliance seriously, and the history so far has shown that Europe can count on the US in some way when it comes to the most critical moments," the Prime Minister noted. He was also of the opinion that Europe must stand on its own two feet when it comes to security in the neighbourhood. "We cannot expect the US to solve the situation in Libya and the issue of illegal migration in Europe, this is homework that Europe has to do. Probably the United States does not expect Europe to help with the problems in the Pacific, as that is American homework, "said Prime Minister Janša.
At the end of the conversation, the Prime Minister added that the government, whenever he led it, always offered the opposition an opportunity to cooperate. “We never excluded anyone,” he recalled. On the issue of unity in Slovenia, which existed 30 years ago, he added that unity is still present today. "We will certainly be united on strategic issues. If people were asked today if they want to be independent, if they want to be the EU or NATO members, I have no doubt about the outcome of the vote. On the other hand, if people were asked about the demographic fund, or foreign investment or economic growth, I doubt that they would be united, "added Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The full press release with photos and video of today's conversation is available at: https: //www.gov.si/novice/2020-09-29-predsednik-vlade-janez-jansa-gost-amcham-poslovnega-zajtrka -without-economic-recovery-there-will-be-no-good-future-and-stabilization /