Organisers of the event of the Slovenian Business Club (SBC) are an apolitical organisation with a strong economic interest in relation to the country and are continuously monitoring events on the political stage. To this end, they invited the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) to an election marathon, where entrepreneurs expressed their views and made proposals for the future in order to make the environment more favourable for entrepreneurs. Vice President of the Slovenian Business Club, Igor Akrapovič, congratulated Prime Minister Janez Janša on his courageous journey to Ukraine and thanked him for the measures taken to relieve those who are overburdened. Namely, he was referring to the most educated part of the workforce, who have moved abroad en masse in recent years. Akrapovič expressed hope that such politics of relief would continue, and other members of the club also praised the work of the current government during these difficult times.
A delegation of the SDS party, consisting of the President of the party, Janez Janša, Minister of Finance, Andrej Šircelj, MSc, Minister of the Environment, Andrej Vizjak, MSc, head of the parliamentary group, Danijel Krivec, MP Marko Pogačnik, MSc, and MP candidate, Rado Gladek, took part in the election marathon, which was prepared by the Slovenian Business Club with all electoral parties.
The event was hosted by their President, successful businessman Joc Pečečnik. He explained that the entrepreneurs in the club are politically neutral and primarily want to help change the business environment in our country. “We have already touched on some topics about the “mindset” of our young people, who expect significantly more from this country than they want to contribute,” he pointed out. Entrepreneurs had the opportunity to ask questions at the event, and Pečečnik also emphasised that they would like to maintain close relations with leading politicians in the future in order to actively participate in improving the business environment in Slovenia.
Prime Minister Janez Janša thanked the members of the SBC for their cooperation in the last two years, especially those that the government regularly met in Brdo pri Kranju, in order to find solutions to mitigate the economic consequences of the corona crisis. “These were not easy times, but we got through them relatively well, with your help, which is also shown by the macroeconomic indicators,” said Janša. “The pandemic period of the last two years has been characterised by crisis management. In the future, however, we want development management to be at the forefront. We already started talking about the need to focus on recovery in 2020, even though the epidemic was not over yet at the time,” he added, announcing the need to ensure future development.
He believes that a change in mentality is important for the governance of our country, which is probably the most difficult thing to achieve. Many teenagers don’t even know what their goal in life is, and if they have one, it is usually something that does not involve risk-taking and consequential growth. “This is our basic problem, and we need to take it more seriously than we did before. You probably approached these things more courageously at a young age already, and that is why you are where you are today,” Janša added. He also said that the party wants to form alliances with the entire economic sector because it is only together that we can move things forward. “Young people think that everyone who is successful today was born that way or is successful because nothing has gone wrong in their life. I believe it is very important for you, entrepreneurs, to also tell young people about your failures.”
De-bureaucratisation and relief of work will affect the development of the economy
The next important package where Prime Minister still sees room for improvement is de-bureaucratisation. “We have a lot of things that are completely unnecessary, which we do simply because they are prescribed. We have also prepared a second legislative package for de-bureaucratisation, which is even more extensive than the first one, but we were not able to get it through the parliamentary sieve,” Janša said, adding that the effects of the first legislative package will certainly be felt in the economic sector in the coming months. “The next law that will bring some relief for work is the Personal Income Tax Act, which has been adopted already. And the next step we have been trying to take, but unfortunately did not get enough votes for it, is the development cap. We need a strategic decision on whether we will offer the next generation well-paid jobs and perspective in their homeland or whether we will push them out. We need to take social demagoguery more seriously, which is a big problem,” said the SDS party’s President, adding that many people were against the development cap even before it was really discussed.
He also pointed out that we had a plan for the liberalisation of the labour market prepared and that they got quite far in their talks with the trade unions. “In the beginning, there was a lot of enthusiasm, but now that unemployment is historically low and employment is historically high, and we have a favourable environment for these changes, as there would be no direct collateral effect, and now that we should try to catch that wind in our sails – meaning, we should adopt the plans for it this year, the enthusiasm is over,” said the Prime Minister. According to him, venture capital funds are also very important for the help of start-ups that we need, “which must be created in a larger and simpler form than previous tenders, as they are trapped by every possible obstacle.”
Slovenia is more recognisable
“When it comes to the issue of profitable foreign investments, it is very important to have a country that is recognisable for good reasons. I believe that in the last six months, we have brought Slovenia closer to this goal, partly because of our Presidency of the Council of the European Union, partly because of our role in Ukraine and what is happening when it comes to mitigating and eliminating its consequences. The fact is that, especially when it comes to important things, these actions count, and we must continue to work on this,” he said.
It is time for development management
According to Janša, “we will now try to move completely from crisis to development management as soon as possible and concentrate on things that seem obvious to us, and that can significantly raise Slovenia in its development potential.” “Slovenia has not yet taken advantage of everything. We have a good starting point, comparing our and Croatia or Serbia’s GDP and population today, and remember that at the time of our independence, Serbia was somewhere at around 70 percent of Slovenia’s GDP. Today, we are at 50 billion, so we know we have to continue in the same direction,” he said.
Members of the SBC were then given the floor. Igor Akrapovič, Vice-President of the club, first congratulated the SDS President on his courageous journey to Ukraine and thanked him for the measures taken to relieve those who are overburdened. Namely, he was referring to the most educated part of the workforce, who have moved abroad en masse in recent years. Akrapovič expressed hope that such politics of relief would continue, and other members of the club also praised the work of the current government during these difficult times. He also raised issues of energy sources and nuclear energy. Entrepreneur Iztok Podkrižnik congratulated the government for the successes in these difficult times we live in, and many praised the fact that in Slovenia, lots of things are moving in the right direction, there are lots of things being built, and the situation is getting better.
Jure Knez from the company Dewesoft was of the opinion that young innovators should be highlighted and supported in a similar way as Slovenian athletes are, and Martin Jezeršek pointed out the tender for those most affected, which will give some financial incentive to those who lost more than 75 percent of their income, “which is good, and I thank you for that.” Later, the attendees also discussed student work.
Wood is a strategic raw material
Marko Lukić from the company Lumar pointed out that all entrepreneurs are in favour of a quality and efficient public sector because if the public sector is too big, it is problematic in terms of taxes, and also way too bureaucratised. Lukić also spoke about the wood industry. Namely, he wanted to hear about the plans for this specific industry. He proposed a value chain be created so that as a country, we could do and build more things with wood. Minister of the Environment Andrej Vizjak, MSc, responded by saying that we lack wood processing centres in the wood value chain and that this gap is then manifested in relatively high prices. “Through the climate fund, we supported the construction with wood, and we continue to support this, but I was personally reluctant when it came to a project of building rental housing with wood, as the price was questionable. In Slovenia, we need to do more in terms of production of semi-finished products that are useful in construction, and that is where we have the most room for improvement,” Vizjak estimated.
“Slovenians are not as divided as it seems, or as the media is trying to make it seem, specifically in terms of debates on the political scene. The biggest divide is between voters and non-voters, half of the people vote, and half of the people do not. In addition, we have a distorted proportional electoral system that encourages this. And thus, the kingmaker is not the largest coalition party, but the smallest,” Janša said, adding that “we created a coalition of people who think differently, and the coalition that fell apart was one of like-minded people, meaning, a coalition of one single colour.”
The economy cannot support one party
“One of the problems that make us stuck where we are and stops us from progressing is that the voice of the real sector and the economy is being pushed aside. We are the only country that has a democratic system where an entrepreneur’s company is not allowed to contribute to a party; we are the only ones where that is forbidden. An entrepreneur can contribute as an individual, which also means he is limited in some ways but not in the name of his company. So, you, as entrepreneurs, cannot decide to support and fund a political party programme through your company. In our country, this was done intentionally so that the economy could not have any influence, but at the time of this being implemented, no one noticed it, and no one got upset because of it. And that is a problem because someone who actually creates a real basis for prosperity has significantly less influence than, say, the trade unions, which are everywhere,” said Janša regarding cooperation with entrepreneurs and the economy.
“As far as the public sector employment is concerned, in the coming decades we will need more employees in long-term care, because as a society, we are ageing, and in healthcare, where this need is greater, this is inevitable, as it is in the education and childcare sectors. Even though we have record-high numbers of employees in the education sector, we have large reserves and too few children. We will have sweet problems when there will not be enough spaces available in kindergartens because there will be more children enrolled than there are now. Currently, we have generations of only 18 thousand children, which is half of the amount in size, compared to generations from, say 1950. At the moment, we have 45 thousand more employees in the public administration than we had in 1996, when Slovenia took over all of the functions of its own statehood with digitalisation,” Janša said about the employees in the public sector, adding that the salary system in the public sector needs to be changed.
Entrepreneurs want closer cooperation with the Ministry of the Economy
Attendees also called for the establishment of a Ministry of the Economy that would communicate regularly (perhaps monthly) and directly with entrepreneurs and help them solve problems as they come up. The SDS party President responded to this by saying that despite the epidemic, the current government visited more than 500 companies during its term. “We visited all the regions, and I learned a lot from these visits; we did a lot based on these meetings. And we also learned a lot today,” he said. “We need to work closely with those who create a concrete basis for prosperity. We know that only economic growth is a sustainable, real basis for prosperity, we know how to create it, and we know that every government must be in alliance with the economy; otherwise, it is not developmental,” Prime Minister Janša concluded.