At today’s press conference, Prime Minister Janez Janša, Deputy Prime Ministers Zdravko Počivalšek and Matej Tonin, and Minister of Agriculture Jože Podgoršek presented the achievements at the occasion of the first anniversary of the current Government of the Republic of Slovenia and also talked about the priorities of their work for the upcoming period. “Today, we are talking about an anniversary that is very special in our history,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša, adding that the events of last year can be compared to the events of 1991 and the times of gaining our independence. “at least in terms of the challenges, efforts and the intensity of action that the government had to take during this time.”
According to Prime Minister Janez Janša, this government was formed after the previous one resigned. “It resigned at the beginning of the epidemic. The motive for their resignation has already been revealed. Even before the epidemic, the WHO estimated that Slovenia was unprepared for a pandemic and warned the then-government. By March 2020, nothing had been done regarding the preparation for the epidemic, despite the very clear instructions from the WHO. I think that is why the government gave up.”
“The parties that formed the new coalition at the time were aware that we were taking on a heavy burden and that in addition to the complexity of the coalition itself, which consists of parties of various profiles, we would have to control the epidemic, as well as achieve the basic goals of the agreed-upon coalition agreement,” Janša said. According to him, the epidemic was a bigger ordeal for Slovenia, as well as the World, than it seemed at the very beginning. “Experts have warned that there will be several different waves of the epidemic, but no one was able to make any accurate predictions. We followed these warnings and immediately after the first wave, which Slovenia successfully endured, renewed the national plan for action during an epidemic and did many things that the WHO advised four years ago. What was not done in four years, we managed to do in a couple of months. We also drew attention to the second wave in time, which was unfortunately not taken seriously enough in Slovenia in general, as everyone expected things would go similarly to how they went in the first wave.”
The anti-corona legislative packages covered everyone, economic indicators above expectations and forecasts
The fight with the epidemic took up 80 percent of the government’s time in one year, or perhaps even more. “Many things that could have been done have therefore remained unfulfilled and are still ahead of us,” Janša pointed out. According to Janša, the work of the government can be assessed on the basis of the measures from the eight anti-corona legislative packages that have been adopted, and if we compare these to the measures in the other EU Member States, we can see that Slovenia is practically the only country that addressed everyone and everything. “We did not even omit the categories that everyone else missed. We significantly exceeded, in a positive sense, the forecasts given at the time when the pandemic started almost a year ago. At the time, the forecast for Slovenia was a drop in GDP at an average of 7%, 120,000 unemployed at the end of 2020, and a significantly higher government budget deficit. The GDP drop was more than 20% lower than what was forecast. The figures for the unemployed show that there are less than 90,000 unemployed. And with the measures we have taken, we have maintained tens of thousands of jobs that would have otherwise permanently disappeared from the Slovenian economy,” said the Prime Minister.
According to Janša, we could make up for the GDP drop this year, provided there are no additional negative surprises, namely, with the help of the additional funds negotiated within the scope of the European Recovery and Resilience Facility. We will also add additional resources to that, which will allow us to do much more in Slovenia than in the past decade. „Despite the fact dealing with the pandemic accounted for 80 percent of our time, the government strove to fulfil the key tasks and objectives of the coalition agreement, including systemic things that have remained intact for decades. The Democratic Fund Act is at the final stage of adoption before the National Assembly, and it will bring stability to the Slovenian pension system, transparent management of state assets and consequent dismantling of networks that negatively affect the processes of the Slovenian economy and society. During this time, we have also remedied the most pressing issues in many Slovenian health institutions, which in one year have made up the capacity to deal with patients with COVID-19. However, the proportion of those who unfortunately died due to this disease is lower than, for example, in Germany. The Slovenian health care system successfully treated a higher proportion of COVID-19 infected patients than in Germany’s health care system. A big thank you goes to all those who made extreme efforts and ensured capacities in the Slovenian health care system. Thus, even in the most difficult times, Slovenia was not forced to transport patients to other countries.”
Janša then said that the coalition is now entering its final mandate year, in which they are determined to deliver on the critical points of the coalition treaty before the year ends. The first item on their list is de-bureaucratisation. “The first package is being discussed, and we are counting on it to go through the government procedure on Thursday and be adopted and enforced by summer. The first package already offers several solutions that will save the Slovenians tens of millions of euros, millions of hours of work, bring them more leisure time or free time, given the many unnecessary and time-consuming barriers. When they are adopted, Slovenia will be different, it will be slenderer, it will be cheaper, and people will have easier access to services of higher quality,” Janša also mentioned decentralisation as an important goal of the agreement. Namely, Slovenia is not only Ljubljana; we have 12 statistical regions, some of which need special investments. “One of the goals that has been included in many coalition agreements before ours, no matter which parties were part of the coalition, is the regulation of the long-term care for the elderly. We spent more money on the non-governmental organisations from Metelkova street in Ljubljana than we have on care for the elderly. Our nursing homes look like run-down barracks. The Long-Term Care Act will be forwarded to the National Assembly by September.” The government has also begun working on an overhaul of the public sector wage system. “A new system will be created for healthcare professionals.”
We need to stay realistic and expect the third wave
The epidemic is still ongoing, with 12 Member States of the European Union officially being in their third wave now. Just a few days ago, we also had 800 new infections. Nevertheless, according to Janša, the epidemic is slowing down. “We have offered to help some of the EU countries by accommodating their patients. We are working with the governments of a few other countries to convince the European Commission to provide additional supplies of vaccines and make sure that vaccines are supplied to all countries, according to their share of the population. This was what we all agreed to at the outset. However, there have been some deviations lately, so we are trying to correct that.”
The Prime Minister emphasised that the government is very happy that new vaccines are being tested and that some may soon be approved. “This increases the chances that as many people as possible in Slovenia and in Europe will be able to return to the most normal possible version of our lives soon, after one year.” According to Janša, we need to stay realistic and also expect a third wave. “The government is determined to respond in a timely manner.” Janša hopes that the opposition will also participate in their efforts, despite the fact that they have tried to use the epidemic for their fight for power. On Wednesday, the President of the Republic will organise a meeting with all of the parties, at the request of the government, and an advisory group of the Ministry of Health will also be present. “We expect the opposition to stop going against us when it comes to measures that make sense. They can criticise the government, but they should not try to tear down sensible measures, as that hurts everyone.” They also had several talks with the DeSUS MPs. According to Janša, the deputies note that everything they agreed on last year was also realised.
We have saved many jobs with the Anti-Corona Legislative Packages
Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said in the introduction that on the very first evening that the government was appointed, they already had to face the epidemic, which Slovenia and our state apparatus were certainly not prepared for. “With all the systemic problems we have had to face as a result of this unpreparedness, the main task is to effectively manage the consequences of the epidemic. We have saved many jobs with the Anti-Corona Legislative Packages (Protikorona paket – referred to as PKP). We have helped many companies. This is the foundation for a rapid economic recovery. We have also maintained a strong industry, construction, and helped the service sector, which has, in some ways, been most affected by the epidemic. An important part of this sector is still closed.”
However, Počivalšek pointed out that we cannot relax just yet, despite the encouraging macroeconomic data, which show that the measures had a good effect on our economy. “Important challenges lie ahead of us – economic recovery and, at the same time, the need for the transformation of our economy into a greener and digital system. The period ahead of us will require us to take big steps to preserve jobs. Slovenia is prepared for this. We have an ambitious economy and stable finances. We will make up for last year’s drop as soon as possible. Slovenia will only be successful when it has a strong economy. The coalition parties are very aware of that fact.”
Počivalšek announced help for Safilo employees
“In only one year, this government has done things that the previous governments never did. Under the eight comprehensive PKP packages, almost 7 billion euros in state aid was granted. More than half of this has already been paid, too.” Počivalšek pointed out that in addition to limiting the epidemic, job retention also remains important. He announced that he would visit Ormož, where 500 jobs are at risk. The government has enough funds to protect these jobs. “For the employees who fear for their jobs, let me reassure you that our public finances are a solid foundation and that we have enough resources for the measures that will protect the jobs.”
We will fight for every job, especially those on the periphery
Počivalšek also said that they would continue with the policies that encourage investments. “I believe we will also find solutions to this problem. We have set the foundation for important projects and reforms which are coming in the future. We will fight for every job, especially those on the periphery,” Počivalšek announced and added that the SMC party puts development for all regions first, so they try to pay special attention to cases like that in Ormož. “With the decentralisation, we will create conditions for young people to develop their careers outside Ljubljana. De-bureaucratisation will create conditions for the economy to be even more prosperous.”
Minister of Defence Matej Tonin, who attended the conference online due to being in contact with a possibly infected person, initially said that a year ago, the NSi party had an in-depth discussion on whether to join the government or decide for early elections instead. “We decided to join the government. The vast majority of members today believe that the decision we made at the time was the right one and the only one possible in those moments when people’s lives and health were endangered.” According to Tonin, the results of the New Slovenia ministerial team are also the key results of the government’s work. “The construction of the second track will start soon. We also began with the construction of the third development axis, and after a decade of inaction, we also started the construction of homes for the elderly.”
“I believe that for the future, it is crucial for us to return to normal life as soon as possible and to give people back the hope and optimism for the life we knew before the corona period. When we finally defeat corona, I think it is crucial that we recover economically. I think the government has played an important and good role here already. With the adopter PKP packages, we saved many jobs and provided people with social security, even in the most difficult moments. The time is coming when we will have to make the job easier for the economy, and that is why the de-bureaucratisation packages are also extremely important.” Tonin also said that the de-bureaucratisation will be followed by reforms. Some issues need to be addressed systematically. The health crisis has exposed all the problems in our healthcare system.
Slovenia’s credit ratings are historically high
Slovenia’s credit ratings are historically high, which, according to Tonin, means that the external professional public also trusts our government and the state. “An important indicator that we are doing well is the share of the unemployed. We are among the best in the European Union. This proves that we have coped well with the epidemic this year.” Tonin is aware that we are at a turning point now, so his wish is for all of us to be able to find more things we have in common, which bring us together. “This is my appeal to the opposition – there will be many more opportunities to fight for power in parliament in the future. However, now is the time to find common ground and move Slovenia forward,” he made it clear. “Conversation is crucial because, with it, the results of our work will be better.”
The current government has done more for the pensioners than many of the previous governments over a long period of time
Minister of Agriculture Jože Podgoršek said this has not been a good year for agriculture either. “In 2021, more than 200 million euros will be provided to agriculture. Agriculture was also included in all of the Anti-Corona Legislative Packages. If not directly, then indirectly,” he said. “We are also working on new ordinances to help the individual sectors, and I am convinced that this will help us get out of the crisis. Let me also mention that a one-time allowance was paid to all of the older residents from the countryside. So, for those over 65 who do not receive social transfers. As they are not receiving pensions, this was an additional aid that was not tied to the regular allowances connected to pensions.”
Over the past year, the government has done more for the pensioners than many of the previous governments have, over a long period of time, the DeSUS minister stressed. “In April 2020 and January 2021, pensioners were paid a one-time crisis covid allowance, which amounted to 67 million euros total in both cases. The pensioners also received the annual allowance in June 2020, which amounted to around 140 million euros. In December 2020, an extraordinary adjustment of pensions for 2 percent was carried out, which amounts to just under 100 million euros annually. There was also a regular adjustment of pensions on the 1st of January 2021, in the amount of 2.5 percent, which amounts to 120 million euros annually. From the 1st of June, all pensioners were also given the right to free long-distance public transport.” According to the minister, the government will finish the construction of two homes for the elderly in Vrtojba and Osilnica. Additional funds will be provided in order to increase the available capacities in nursing homes. “We also welcome the establishment of the demographic fund.”