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The Economic Sector: Due To The Bad Measures, We Have Regressed More Than Anyone Else In Europe

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and other business associations are becoming increasingly critical of the government of Robert Golob. They recently wrote in a letter of protest that the current government’s way of doing things and its attitude are making any serious social dialogue impossible. Now they are accusing the government of misleading the public with the alleged results and are criticising it because of a severe drop in the Eurostat. When it comes to industrial production in April, we have fallen the most of any European country, and we have the worst result. “An 8 percent drop from last April to this year, which means that the measures taken or not taken by the government are being reflected in these results,” said Tibor Šimonka, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. And now the government is pointing the finger at them …

Slovenia has experienced a significant drop in the global competitiveness rankings. Among the 64 countries that were included, we landed at the inglorious 42nd place, which is four places lower than last year. We have fallen behind in all four areas covered by the survey. We landed in such a low position because of business and government inefficiencies, including high taxation of labour, including social contributions.

The government is misleading the public with “good” results

Tibor Šimonka, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, said that the representatives of the economic sector have constantly been warning the government of Robert Golob about what is coming. “Wherever our country could act quickly, it does not. At the moment, we are more concerned about the fact that according to Eurostat for industrial production in April, we regressed the most of any country in Europe, we have the worst result.” Šimonka, as President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has been warning the government since last November that they were misleading with the 2022 results, which were relatively good, but even these results were not so good because value added is even lower compared to inflation, he said. This means that Slovenia has also regressed in value added, although Golob likes to boast about the latter being good.

If the government continues in this way, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry predicts a loss of 1 billion euros in added value

“We repeatedly warned that if timely action is not taken, especially in the field of energy products, this is exactly what would happen. And if we do not take timely action now, when it comes to the competitiveness of business conditions, because here and also in the field of energy products we are lagging significantly behind Europe, we can expect a loss of a billion euros in added value, which is about 200 million in taxes to the state budget,” warned Šimonka.

The government is attacking the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for criticising what they like to boast about Minister of the Environment, Climate and Energy Bojan Kumer, described the government’s relationship with Šimonka as contaminated because of a recent dispute over dividend and bonus payments at the Slovenian Steel Group (Slovenska industrija jekla – SIJ). In response, Šimonka said that the government is clearly annoyed that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and he, as the main representative of all its members, is loud and critical and criticises them for what they boast about. “We are pointing out that the results they are presenting to the public are not the actual results and that there will be consequences. I would also expect an admission from the Energy Minister that the energy sector is clear evidence that the poor indicators this year and the poor handling of the energy crisis, particularly in industry, have caused this big fall.”

Gen-I’s Kumer denounces legal dividends and bonuses

Šimonka said that for him, the relationship between the Chamber and the government was already contaminated last year when Kumer said that whoever cannot pay 300 or 400 euros for a megawatt-hour of electricity should go bankrupt, and that dirty industry has no place in Slovenia’s perspective and should therefore move out. “And for him to talk about exorbitant bonuses, given that everything is legal and legitimate, and we know which company he comes from, is even more strange,” Šimonka added. Kumer was the former President of the Management Board of the Gen-I energy company, where, it should be pointed out, millions of euros in bonuses were paid.

Are the payments of bonuses and dividends in the Slovenian Steel Group really against the law?

The government decided a few days ago that the payment of dividends to the owners of the steel group’s umbrella company, Sij, and bonuses to the management contravened the purpose of the Act Governing Aid to Businesses Hit by High Increases in Electricity and Natural Gas Prices. It ordered the Ministry of the Economy to adopt measures to strengthen controls and recover the “unjustified” state aid, and, failing that, the Financial Administration should recover it. The question of the controversial nature of these payments has thus been raised in the media as a result of the previously received state aid. In this context, the company Sij had already assessed that the publications were politically motivated, targeting, in particular, the group’s Senior Vice President and the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Šimonka. However, it should be stressed that the state aid was not requested by the parent company, but by its four subsidiaries – Sij Acroni, Sij Metal Ravne, Sij ZIP Center and Sij Ravne Systems.

Šimonka stressed that the owners have the final say in dividend payments. He considers the decision of the Sij General Meeting to pay dividends to be legal and legitimate. “I would consider it a major blunder if one of our subsidiaries, which has received state aid, were to pay a dividend. However, this was not the case,” he wrote, adding that he could, therefore, not accept the accusation that such a decision was morally questionable. “More importantly, this payment was made in mid-2022, before the economic aid law had even taken shape,” he added.

Sara Kovač

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