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Saturday, June 3, 2023

(INTERVIEW) Jelka Godec: “The success of the work of the current government is visible in every municipality”

By: Petra Janša

“Today, people are responding mainly to an unjust judiciary, mentioning the second-class nature of ‘ordinary’ citizens and wanting the rule of law to apply to everyone equally. There is much praise for the work of the current government. Namely, the success of this government’s work is visible in every municipality and the citizens are satisfied that we in Ljubljana have not forgotten about them,” said the SDS MP, who wants rural development projects to continue to be included in the country’s development programme”.


Jelka Godec was born in November 1969 in Celje. In 1995 she graduated from the Faculty of Education in Ljubljana, majoring in physics – engineering. In 2003 she graduated from the Faculty of Education in Maribor, majoring in single subject physics, and obtained the title of professor of physics. She completed additional professional training for teaching informatics and computer science at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Ljubljana. She taught in elementary and high school. From 2006 to 2014, she ran the public institution Ljudska univerza Šentjur. Since 2014, she has been a member of the National Assembly. In the 2014-2018 term of office, she chaired a commission of inquiry into abuses in the Slovenian health care system in the sale and purchase of vascular splints and was active in health, education, and social affairs. In her second parliamentary term, she chaired a commission of inquiry into the responsibilities of public office holders in the paediatric cardiology programme. Since April 2020, she has been the Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. She is a mother of three and a sports fan.

DEMOKRACIJA: Mrs. Godec, the elections are just around the corner. How important are they? We often hear that they are ground-breaking…

Godec: The current government has taken over the mandate in times of crisis of the covid-19 epidemic. It has successfully overcome pandemic barriers and tackled external destructive factors. Despite the obstacles, it successfully managed to reach the goal, until the new regular elections. Thanks to this government, today we are recording the lowest unemployment rate, record economic growth, we are the country with the best GDP recovery after the epidemic, public debt is falling, investments are being made in health, school, sports, and road infrastructure. Thousands of development projects are under construction or approved in all Slovenian municipalities, many of which are partly or practically entirely financed from obtained European funds. We want this development-investment cycle to continue. That the decentralisation of Slovenia continues, that rural development projects continue to be included in the plan of development programmes of the country. That is also why these elections are ground-breaking.

DEMOKRACIJA: What do people in the field tell you? What is the response when you meet citizens?

Godec: Personal contact in the field is what keeps in touch with people’s real problems. This is the only way to solve individual and social challenges. I am very aware of this myself, so I read all citizens’ e-mails without hindrance, happily and enthusiastically, answer calls and meet citizens and others in person. During covid-19, a lot of personal distress was expressed, as well as understanding for the measures, and sometimes criticism was expressed, as well as suggestions on how to alleviate the epidemic crisis. Today, people are responding mainly to an unjust judiciary, mentioning the second-class nature of “ordinary” citizens, and wanting the rule of law to apply equally to all. There is much praise for the work of the current government. Namely, the success of the work of the current government is visible in every municipality and the citizens are satisfied that we in Ljubljana have not forgotten about them.

DEMOKRACIJA: Let us first evaluate the work of the current government. What would you highlight?

Godec: A lot has been done in these two years. The government, which has been credited with preliminary elections, has completed its term. It has successfully tackled the covid-19 epidemic despite political disagreements – the opposition has done nothing to help normalise life during and after the epidemic. Ten anti-corona measures have been adopted, which today show very positive results in rapid recovery and economic growth and historically low unemployment. Laws have been passed that provide a ten-year financial opportunity to invest in health, sports, and the military. The long-awaited law on long-term care and the law on the housing guarantee scheme for young people have been adopted. In the EU, the highest amount of European funds for Slovenia was reached in the negotiations – more than 10 billion euros, of which 6 billion in grants, which will enable even greater investment momentum. For the first time, Slovenia is borrowing at a negative interest rate. After many years, pensions are being adjusted, we have regulated farmers’ pensions and, with the adoption of the Personal Income Tax Act, we have increased salaries for all employees.

DEMOKRACIJA: The establishment of a demographic fund is also a priority for this government. What does it bring?

Godec: In a situation where Slovenia is among the countries with the fastest aging population, it was necessary to pay a lot of attention to demography. There is an urgent need to achieve a fair, simple and transparent pension system in the next term. Pensions are not social benefits, but the right to past contributions. Demographic projections point to a high increase in general government expenditure on pensions. The challenge is how the state can provide the fairest and most conducive environment for the coexistence of generations by redistributing its revenues. Thus, the Slovenian Demographic Fund, which is an added value to the pension system, must be finally regulated. Due to the declining number of active population, we can no longer ensure long-term sustainability for pension security through paid-in contributions. The missing funds will have to be provided by the state through the state budget. The Demographic Fund, which will manage state assets, will relieve pressure on public finances. Most of the Demographic Fund’s revenue will go to pensions.

DEMOKRACIJA: Are you satisfied with the government’s work in the field of healthcare? What about the fight against corruption in this area?

Godec: I believe that the changes in healthcare have been affected by the pandemic, which we have been dealing with for almost the entire term. Above all, it turned out that for many years there was no investment in healthcare in terms of investment and human resources. However, we managed to reach two general agreements for 2020 and 2021, which brought about changes such as paying for certain programmes by services, higher expenditure on psychotherapy programmes for children, equalising the heading ratio for family medicine to 1895, and payment of services for additional enrolment of patients above the heading quotient, etc. We have increased enrolment in medical schools, the number of specialisations in the field of clinical psychology and introduced a 20% allowance for family medicine specialists. Above all, the condition of five years of work experience for young doctors before starting medical practice on their own was abolished. We have fulfilled an important coalition commitment and adopted an amendment to the Public Procurement Act, which now stipulates that the Office for Health Pricing Policy regulates the prices of medical devices with reference prices set based on research in comparable markets in Europe.

DEMOKRACIJA: Solving the problems in the judiciary remains for the next term. Do you agree?

Godec: Slovenia has the highest number of judges per 100,000 inhabitants and we pay almost the highest for justice in Europe. We are also among the countries that most often violate human rights in court proceedings. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Article 8 of the Judicial Service Act from 1994, which stipulates that only judges and prosecutors who did not violate human rights with their decisions before independence may be appointed to a permanent judicial term. The judicial system has never complied with this article of the law. Therefore, in the new term of office, we will establish a longer probationary period for judges before taking office, and existing judges without diplomas or bar exams and appointed in violation of the law will be dismissed. Above all, by establishing a fair judiciary that does not divide citizens into first-class and second-class, we will also take care to eliminate or minimize human rights violations. We also have to shorten long deadlines in the courts.

DEMOKRACIJA: What areas still need to be regulated?

Godec: We must continue with the necessary changes in health care, where it is necessary to change the way the Health Care and Insurance Institute works, pay for programmes after services, involve all available staff in the medical service and regulate the pay system in health care. The Ukrainian crisis has highlighted the importance of another area, namely agriculture and self-sufficiency. It is high time that family farms become the core that will preserve the Slovenian countryside and enable an increase in self-sufficiency with locally produced food. We will relieve farmers of the tax burden and simplify their business and marketing. We will also abolish the Agricultural Land Fund of the Republic of Slovenia, as it is not the task of the state to market land. These lands should be owned or leased by those who will cultivate them.

DEMOKRACIJA: How do you comment on the fact that more and more journalists are appearing on party lists?

Godec: Journalists appear on party lists mainly in the left political field. Let me remind you of names such as Tanja Fajon, Blaž Zgaga, Jonas Žnidaršič (all SD), Irena Joveva (LMŠ), Mojca Šetinc Pašek (Gibanje Svoboda) and others. This confirms the opinion that media balance in Slovenia is far from balanced. As a fellow MP would say: the media scene is tilted like a tower in Pisa – to the left.

DEMOKRACIJA: This time we are facing the consequences of the war in Ukraine. How to mitigate the economic consequences of the war in our country, how to become independent from Russian energy sources and at the same time maintain healthy public finances?

Godec: At SDS, we are committed to the stability and self-sufficiency of electricity supply, which can be provided in the future according to the following formula: 1/3 to 1/2 of nuclear energy needs, 1/3 of solar, wind and geothermal energy needs, and 1/3 hydropower needs. In energy policy, the emphasis will be on greater utilisation of water resources and domestic wood biomass for environmentally friendly and affordable energy supply. We will continue our efforts to promote energy exports to create a competitive, transparent, and non-discriminatory energy market and support the diversification of energy sources, contribute to security of supply, and promote lower prices, and reduce dependence on Russia, which is geostrategically necessary.

DEMOKRACIJA: What result do you expect in the elections?

Godec: The Slovenian Democratic Party will achieve a new victory with more seats than we have in our current term. I believe that even parties with similar programme orientations will achieve a high enough result that we will form a future government together, because Slovenia deserves it.


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