By: Gal Kovač / Nova24tv
In the complete absence of common sense policies, it seems that the government of Robert Golob has resorted to petty political games and downright bizarre political theatre. The coalition’s vile political moves have now “taken away” two free school meals from all school children. Meanwhile, the sick children had nothing to gain from the bizarre political theatre in which the former world boxing champion and MP from the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda), Dejan Zavec, and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, staged a boxing fight in the National Assembly for a short feature film, recorded for children with cancer.
“Therefore, we in the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) parliamentary group call on the coalition MPs and the government in general to devote the time that would be spent on making a feature film to ensuring that the conditions in the healthcare system are adequate in order to ensure that sick children receive the best possible medical care. In addition, the SDS MPs pledge to support all proposals that will make life easier for sick children and their parents,” Jelka Godec, leader of the SDS parliamentary group, responded to the announcement of the tragicomic boxing session in the National Assembly.
“During Janez Janša’s government’s term, we did not make boxing videos in support of sick children. Instead, by amending the law, we reduced the hardships of sick children and their parents,” the SDS MP also wrote. She then added a wide range of measures to her post, detailing the actions from the previous government’s term that had a real impact on the lives of sick children.
“With the amendment to the Health Care and Health Insurance Act, we made it possible for a parent or guardian to live with their child in a health care institution or rehabilitation resort free of charge:
with a sick child who is up to and including 14 years old;
with a sick child who is up to and including 18 years old, or for as long as the parental right lasts in the case of a serious brain or spinal cord defect or injury requiring training for subsequent medical rehabilitation at home, or in the case of treatment for a serious medical condition;
regardless of age, with a person with special needs who requires 24-hour care or with a person who has the status of a disabled person, under the law governing the social integration of disabled persons.
Vile political games which resulted in children being deprived of a free meal
The beginning of the week was marked by another peculiar tragedy, namely, the rejection of the Slovenian Democratic Party bill, which would have allowed all pupils to have two free meals a day – morning snack and lunch. The coalition MPs rejected the bill on flimsy grounds, among other things, because there was not enough time to implement the bill, while the Left party (Levica) MPs were particularly bothered by the fact that school meals could also be provided by outside providers. Signatures for an almost identical law are currently being collected by the left-wing non-governmental organisation the Institute of the 8th of March (Inštitut 8. marec). The SDS party, unlike the coalition MPs, will not oppose the adoption of the said law.
In a recent episode of the show “Topic of the Day” (“Tema dneva”), SDS MP Alenka Helbl and the host of the show Aleksandra Jug discussed the main arguments presented by the coalition MPs during the debate about the bill in question in the National Assembly. The main criticisms of the law were that it was partial, that it does not take into account all stakeholders, and that it is not coordinated. “Everyone supports the law in principle but they are taking their time on this decision. I do not know why,” the SDS MP pointed out.
Helbl then pointed out another criticism of the bill that came from the ranks of the Left party, namely, that the bill does not exclude external providers of school meals, which the party in question believes is a sign of privatisation of education. Helbl added that the Institute of the 8th of March, which, in this case, is acting as a kind of non-governmental arm of the Robert Golob government, is also collecting signatures for a very similar law, which is very similar to the one the SDS party prepared, with one exception – it excludes external (private) providers of school meals. According to the SDS MP, this is a problem because many schools have neither the capacity, the infrastructure, nor the staff to be able to provide free school meals in the short term.
The SDS party wants to help everyone; the Left party only wants to help some
The host of the show then pointed out that this was an example of the difference between the policies of the SDS party and those of the coalition parties. Namely, the former helps everyone, regardless of the legal proposal, while the coalition parties tend to create “scales” in order to differentiate between citizens according to various criteria, including their wealth status, which was also clear from the case in question.
The time of rising prices is the time to rethink our relationship with food
MP Helbl then responded to another argument made by the coalition, namely that the opposition proposal would generate large amounts of food waste. To this, the MP replied that perhaps the time of rising prices is the right time for society to reflect on its attitude towards food. “If we have not already, we need to start promoting a respectful attitude towards food now. It seems to me that now is the right time to do a thorough rethink when it comes to our attitudes towards food. Not all children will eat all of the meals, but we can use this as another good educational moment, because they will have the opportunity to sign up or cancel their meals,” she said, and then backed this claim up with the fact that she herself was a teacher in a secondary school for many years, and therefore believes that it is possible to get this right.
If the bill in question were to be adopted, that would cost the state 200 million euros a year, provided that all pupils were served both meals. Just for comparison, the government recently announced a pay raise for the public sector that will take an additional 600 million euros out of the state budget.
Voting against the coalition’s own commitments
Host of the show Aleksandra Jug then also reminded the viewers of the coalition agreement signed by the presidents of the coalition parties – the Freedom Movement party, the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD) and the Left party (Levica). Namely, the coalition agreement states that there is absolutely no reason why free school meals should not be introduced in schools, but members of the coalition seem to have forgotten about their own promises. Mrs Helbl added that the main argument made against the adoption of the bill in question was that the law had been proposed too quickly. “If the 1st of January 2024 is too soon to implement the coalition’s commitments, then when will the right time to do so come?” she rightly wondered, concluding, between the lines, that this is nothing more than faking ignorance since the main reason for rejecting the law was simply that it had been proposed by the SDS party.
The bill would help parents in need
The bill, as put forward by the Slovenian Democratic Party, also had a major social moment, as families who are currently forced to apply for financial aid would no longer have to go to social work centres to get meals for their children, which is very distressing for many families. “Many parents have difficulties admitting that they have a financial problem,” Helbl said.
“I am afraid that this will go beyond this crisis, and then it will all blow over,” MP Aleksandra Helbl predicted. Finally, she added that the SDS party will act differently from the coalition MPs and that, if there are no major objections, it will support the bill for which the Institute of the 8th of March is currently collecting signatures.