At today’s session, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia considered the proposed Act Amending the Act Determining the Intervention Measures to Contain the COVID-19 Epidemic and Mitigate its Consequences for Citizens and the Economy (the ZIUZEOP) or the ‘first anti-corona package’, and the proposed Act on Providing Additional Liquidity to the Economy to Mitigate the Consequences of the COVID-19 Epidemic or the ‘second anti-corona package’.2]
The speech of the Prime Minister Janez Janša after the adoption of the two acts is published below:
We are at a turning point in the fight against the epidemic. We have managed to contain it to a large extent, but the virus is still among us. Sadly, the number of deaths is increasing. However, our successes so far will make it possible to gradually relax certain restrictions. Yesterday, we therefore entered a time of risk that we consider and hope to be reasonable. To what extent, due to the nature of the disease’s development, we will not be able to see and assess for at least 10 to 14 days.
The next easing of restrictions can be expected after the 1 May holidays, provided, of course, that the test results of the COVID-19 screening points and the results of the general sample survey are favourable. Over the last month, we ensured significant additional capacities and better organisation in healthcare and a fairly regular supply of personal protective equipment. As a nation, we have largely learned to comply with the new rules of hygiene, respect the safety distance and use personal protective equipment properly. In these new difficult conditions, municipalities have provided for hundreds of vital details that make life as normal as possible. Businesspeople and retailers have made the proper arrangements to be able to continue doing business under these new circumstances. We have proven we can do it. In the coming weeks we need a good combination of knowledge, caution and responsibility to find the right measure between the ability to further control the epidemic and the easing of restrictions.
Crucial, however, will be our ability to detect new infections at the earliest possible stage, to test all their close contacts and to use an application to control the movement of infection.
If such an application could already be used at least on a voluntary basis, as proposed by the Government a month ago, the restriction of movement to the municipality of residence could be lifted, at a reasonable risk, at least in a few least affected regions.
Once again, I would like to emphasise something that everyone in Europe and the world obviously understands, and only in Slovenia do some people still have difficulty understanding:
The more accurately we are able to detect, limit and control the sources of infection, the fewer restrictions are required for the remaining 99%.
However, the epidemic leaves behind consequences not only on health but also economic, social, and political consequences.
The Government has adopted two important legislative proposals today. With the first, the Government has completed the first anti-corona package. The financial cushion has been partially supplemented, rounded off and further harmonised. Over 300,000 beneficiaries have been added to more than one million recipients of the allowances to be received by groups of people affected by the epidemic and vulnerable groups included in the first package. The five working groups preparing the supplements involved hundreds of stakeholders, including all the social partners and all the non-governmental organisations that are helping to deal with the effects of the epidemic. Dozens of their proposals have been taken into account by the Government and incorporated into the Act. However, many old difficulties and issues could not be regarded as consequences of the epidemic. We will take other measures to solve these.
In good faith, all opposition parties were also invited to participate. Unfortunately, from the majority, we received pointless media attacks on working materials that we, in good faith, had sent them to supplement.
With the second anti-corona package on the provision of liquidity, we will facilitate the conservation of production and development potentials of the Slovenian economy. Slovenia will guarantee credits raised up to a certain ceiling by companies and individuals who are engaged in commercial activities. This represents additional loan facilities in the amount of over EUR 2 billion to provide substantial help for the Slovenian economy to overcome the consequences of the epidemic.
Even during the epidemic, we must maintain healthy potentials of our economy and, in doing so also save jobs and, with that, all the vital elements of the social state. The efforts to form a European debt instrument that would enable the distribution of some of the burden caused by the epidemic over a longer period and in a solidarity-based way are still ongoing. On Thursday, a new round of negotiations will take place within the European Council. For now, we are closer to a small compromise than to a break-through, but we must not give up hope.
Irrespective of all the different financing options to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic, we must appreciate that all the resources we will borrow will have to be repaid.
Therefore, we will do everything within our power to be able to do that without undue shocks to the prosperity of Slovenia. We should also bear in mind that new opportunities will arise after the end of the epidemic. Those who will emerge from the crisis with less damage, with more preserved or even renovated capacities, will be stronger, more competitive and therefore more successful. The lowest prices of oil in history and other changes bring about decisive changes to international economic and political relations. Former strengths are today’s weaknesses and vice versa. Slovenia has been less impacted by these changes and it is down to us to take advantage of this position.
We will also find internal reserves. A large one has already been discovered. For instance, the cost of the luxury renovation of the hotel in Brdo, which was estimated by the former government to be EUR 40 million, in order to cover the needs of the Presidency will be reduced fourfold. You heard that correctly. Fourfold. Nevertheless, the Presidency will be carried out normally. And several similar reserves are on their way.
In contrast to the last economic crisis, the liquidity of banks has, thus far, not been a problem. They have enough equity to provide considerable support to the economy during the time of the crisis as well as for an exit strategy. The European Central Bank provided them with additional loan resources.
Therefore, our next biggest challenge will be the removal of an excessive number of bureaucratic barriers preventing faster development, although we are able to finance it. To ensure more investments, more jobs and better wages for employees. To be a part of the first phase of reshoring manufacturing from Asia back to Europe which has already begun due to the geostrategic consequences of the epidemic. To enable the release of the proverbial Slovenian entrepreneurship which, until now, has sadly more often reaped success abroad than in Slovenia.
This will be the included in the third, and hopefully the last, anti-corona package that we are planning to adopt at the end of May. With it, we want to ensure as smooth a transition back to a somewhat normal life as possible. It will also bring about the extension of some measures from the first anti-corona package for those sectors, especially tourism, which have been impacted the most, and for which we cannot expect a rapid or complete recovery this year.
The new government has been in power for five weeks and we can already make comparisons. In our fight against the epidemic, Slovenia is one of the countries that has shown many good practices. I want to thank every one of you who has made this possible. And a special thanks to everyone who has acted responsibly and, thus, saved lives. Today, our lives are not only in the hands of doctors but in the hands of all of us. Each and every one of us can, without their knowledge or fault, spread the virus, but also stop it from spreading when it has been discovered. Each and every one of us can, therefore, be a part of the solution as well as a part of the problem. Unfortunately, this will remain the case for at least some time going forward. Therefore, we must stick together in recognising this fact and acting responsibly. This will facilitate a faster return to a life as normal as possible.
If there will not be too many obstacles, and with good leadership, Slovenia will rank among the countries that will be the least impacted by the epidemic and will be capable of a quick recovery and a renewed growth in prosperity. We must do everything within our power to seize the new opportunities that will arise from this crisis. Thank you and stay healthy.