The narcissistic outburst of the Speaker of the National Assembly at Friday’s celebration of Independence and Unity Day, which is apparently becoming a tradition for her, almost made us forget about the most important speech of the evening. The nation was addressed by Prime Minister Robert Golob, and his unusual remarks about the successful performance of his government have probably aroused the most public interest. He boasted about his government’s response to the high cost of food and energy and even about his concern for the pensioners!
“This war has pushed the whole of Europe into a major crisis. It is not just an energy crisis and not just a food crisis. It is a crisis that requires decisive and effective action at all levels. And we have acted decisively. We have put the brakes on prices. We increased child allowances, we increased salaries, we increased pensions. And our response to the energy and food crisis is something that is the envy of Europe. Our response is considered one of the most successful responses in the whole of Europe,” the Prime Minister said in his speech. Let’s see how much truth there is in these statements.
It is likely that there is not a single citizen in Slovenia who does not wish from the bottom of his or her heart that the Prime Minister’s recent statements were true. The problem is, of course, that, unfortunately, they are not. Robert Golob‘s government has been tripping over its own feet from the very beginning, starting with the management of the prices of energy. That was the first area that Golob tackled after taking power. He announced a new compromise between fuel sellers and consumers. This compromise brought higher fuel prices for all Slovenians, both on highways and at petrol stations along regional roads. These high prices have only started to fall now that the price of a barrel of crude oil on the world markets has fallen to the level from a year ago. It should also be pointed out that, with his first measure, the Prime Minister caused masses of people to rush to petrol stations, announcing the price increase virtually from one day to the next, and thus, of course, consumers wanted to fill up their tanks at the lower price, not the higher price that was to come one day later.
The electricity market disaster
Then Robert Golob’s government “got to work” on electricity prices. The first serious measure was taken just a few days ago, and it was slammed by the economy in numerous public statements as insufficient and essentially misguided. Not only are the funds allocated by the government to companies totally inadequate, but the government has failed to implement the essential measure of limiting the earnings of energy traders. Given the prices they charge to companies, they should be swimming in their earnings, but this is clearly not the case. The Slovenian Power Plant Holding (to the helm of which Golob appointed his own best man) is clearly in such trouble that the state has had to come to its rescue with a 500-million-euro recapitalisation, including a 300 million euro guarantee. The situation is said to be similarly dire at the state-owned GEN-I energy company, where, according to media reports, the company’s management has sold the electricity it monopolises from the Krško nuclear power plant in advance at a significantly lower price than is currently available on the market. The end result of the disastrous business decisions of a company which, until recently, was run by the very Prime Minister, is the high price of electricity which we have to buy abroad, while some people abroad can easily get by with Slovenian electricity.
The food market disaster
The government of Robert Golob then turned to the rising prices of food. When Golob took power, he also tried to tackle the strategic problems in the food sector. This was at a time when Russian warships were preventing Ukrainian grain from leaving the Black Sea ports. The percentage of global consumption accounted for by Ukrainian grain meant that the world was threatened with famine, while Slovenia was likely to experience at least a several-fold increase in the price of bread, the staple food for most Slovenian people. Golob addressed the problem by announcing a strategic purchase of Slovenian grain, which would then be deposited in the stocks of the Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Commodity Reserves. The project infamously failed, because the tender for the purchase of the grain was issued much too late – after the Slovenian farmers had long since sold their grain, and at a much higher price than the Prime Minister had intended to buy it from them. In the end, only one firm supposedly applied to the tender, and even that firm did not meet the tender conditions.
Of course, we also have to mention Golob’s “soft power” project, with which he tried to shame retailers into not raising their prices too much. The state funded an online project that records the prices of a basic basket of groceries, but the problem is that this project was plagued with methodological (in addition to the moral) problems from the very beginning. Namely, the retailers have complained that the project does not reflect their real prices, as the wrong items are taken into account, in addition to other problems.
The “raising” of salaries
In his speech at the celebration of Independence and Unity Day, the Prime Minister also claimed that his government had increased salaries. This is a blatant and easily proven lie. The amendment to the Income Tax Act that had been adopted by his government has reduced salaries for the entire working population. Yes, you read that right – because of his reform of the law, even the poorest will receive lower salaries from the new year onward, as we have already reported in several of our other articles.
“Helping” the elderly
In his speech, Golob also spoke about helping the elderly. He would probably have done the most for them if he had done nothing. Namely, the government of Janez Janša had passed a law on long-term care that would have drastically expanded the rights that the elderly enjoy today. However, the so-called “Constitutional Arch Coalition” parties (left-wing parties of the former opposition), which are now either part of the coalition or have been absorbed into the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje svoboda) after their downfall at the recent elections to the National Assembly, opposed the law for two main reasons. The first was that it had technical flaws. This was already clear when the law was adopted, and the coalition at the time acknowledged it but adopted the law anyway, because of its impact on the quality of life and because these shortcomings could be corrected by subsequent amendments and by-laws.
Instead of spending the money on better care for the elderly, it was allocated to the migrant problem
The second reason was a lack of money. This is yet another obvious and easily proven lie. There was enough money; what was lacking on the left was the interest to push for long-term care in the first place. As an MP from the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) and former minister Zvone Černač revealed when the budget was adopted, it was clearly visible that the lion’s share of the funds, around 60 million euros (out of the 70 million), which were earmarked for long-term care, had been transferred to other items – namely, care for migrants.