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Monday, July 4, 2022

Social Democrats, the Most Indebted Party, Will Manage European Money

By: Domen Mezeg / Nova24tv

“Where there is public money, I always see the problem of improperly spent funds. There is always this danger. It is also important to note that a huge number of projects will go through this department. That is why it is crucial to choose good projects and spend public money rationally. However, I am afraid that we will not be able to provide administrative support for projects that are the basis for drawing the funds,” said economist Anže Burger at the beginning of the term of the new minister responsible for development and European cohesion policy, Aleksander Jevšek, from the Social Democrats party.

Although the Social Democrats (SD) barely made it into the National Assembly in the latest election, it has been entrusted with a huge piece of the state administration pie, including the department that deals with European funding. Namely, Dr Aleksander Jevšek has become the new Minister without Portfolio for Development and European Cohesion Policy. According to our information, two other prominent members of the same party will help him deal with European funds – lawyer and former Minister of Defence, Andreja Katič, and former Minister of Culture, Dejan Prešiček, who was also rumoured to be the intimate partner of the President of the SD party and now-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tanja Fajon. Let us also remind you of the reporting of the Finance newspaper, which wrote that “the European Union transferred 513.4 million euros to the country before the end of May, which is 142.4 million euros more than in the first five months of the previous year.” This is no small feat.

In March, we reported that the SD party has been in the red for the last 13 years, and wondered how they could run the country if they were not even able to manage their own party’s finances successfully. We hope, however, that they will not spend too much money at our expense. We have already experienced this in the past, namely, before the previous government led by Janez Janša took office, as public money was being spent on various wasteful studies, parapolitical non-governmental organisations, and other things. Let us also remind you that the Social Democrats, compared to other political parties in Slovenia, are also real estate moguls. They, of course, did not actually buy the real estate – as the proud successors of the former totalitarian regime (communism), they “inherited” it or acquired it without properly paying for it.

Data from the land registry shows that the SD party owns 16 properties in various Slovenian towns, most of them in Ljubljana and Ravne na Koroškem. They also rent out their real estate, and they have a mortgage on their building on Levstikova street in Ljubljana, where their headquarters are located, to take out loans. But despite their fabulous assets, their catastrophic financial situation has been dragging on since 2008, when their deficit was at around 666 thousand euros. By 2010, it had almost doubled to 1.2 million euros. Then their deficit, in this case, the loss, was partially covered before 2013, after which the red numbers jumped up again. IN 2014, when the election was held, they doubled the loss. In the following years, their financial losses were not significantly reduced, ranging from 700 to 800 thousand euros.

The controversial business practices of the SD party: years and years of outstanding election campaign bills
In 2019, when the European elections took place, the cumulative deficit increased again and exceeded 1.1 million euros. In 2020, it amounted to 856 thousand euros. The long-term settlement of bills from past election campaigns is also a big problem for the party. Many believe that they should have gone bankrupt a long time ago due to the outstanding financial obligations, but they are solving their financial problems with loans, for which they mortgage their real estate, and they also earn money by renting them out. The SD party deceived their creditors and told them that they were trying to reach an agreement with all those who they owed the money to, claiming that they were paying as much as they possibly could and saying that they could not pay off everything right away but that “they will settle their accounts.” Then it turned out that they still owed people more than half a million euros, and all of their unpaid bills from the election campaigns remained unpaid for at least another five years. The bills were still not paid before the next election.

We talked to economist Anže Burger about what the SD party’s control of the aforementioned department brings to the country and its inhabitants: “This department is one of the most crucial ones, in addition to the Ministry of Finance, because in the coming years we will receive a lot of money from the multinational financial framework (plus the recovery fund). We will be drawing money until the year 2026.” As Burger explained, the department has experienced a strong drop in the number of staff in recent years. He is also concerned about the leadership itself, the team, and whether or not they will manage to fill the staff shortage with the right people, which we now so desperately need, to draw on available resources and make a European breakthrough in the field of digital transformation. And, as always, with all governments, there is also the danger of a certain “outflow” of public money.

There are fears of staff shortages
As Burder said, he does not differentiate between political orientations. “Where there is public money, I always see the problem of improperly spent funds. There is always this danger. It is also important to note that a huge number of projects will go through this department. That is why it is crucial to choose good projects and spend public money rationally.” There is also the danger of exceeding the absorption capacity in the country and the economy. With such a big amount of money available in a few years, the question arises of whether we have enough capacity, both in terms of human resources and investment, to properly draw these funds, spend them, prepare projects, and so on. We have already had these problems in the drawing of funds so far, but now we will have an additional problem to deal with (drawing the money from the recovery fund). “I am afraid that we will not be able to provide adequate administrative support to the projects that are the basis for drawing of the funds.”

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