Slovenia’s economic future depends on how effective it will be in implementing recommendations from the European Commission, veteran Slovenian businessman Peter Kraljič has told a debate in Maribor, in which he expressed criticism of the state of politics in the country.
While the deadlines given by the Commission are relatively short, the fact is that the country has lost six years due to inaction, the former CEO of McKinsey&Co told a meeting organised by the Štajersko Chamber of Commerce.
Kraljič suggested that all governments until 2008 were to blame for a lack of action in taking measures which would have softened the recession caused by the global crisis.
The crisis began in early 2008, but the then Prime Minister Janez Janša had forecast economic growth in 2009 as late as in December, said Kraljič.
Slovenia fell into a hole during the crisis because the governments which had run the country until then had failed to make it competitive and ready for the downturn, he added.
“Since then we’ve had four governments in five years, which is why it is understandable that we are under pressure while other countries have made great strides. The Baltic countries, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, basically everyone but Slovenia and France has taken action.”
He said that after failing to catch the German train, Slovenia is now “stuck on the French train that is travelling south”.
In order to turn things around, the next government will have to strengthen the reform drive. This will require two to four years of hard work in which all stakeholders will have to participate, he said.
Rejecting the notion that the demands from Brussels are unreasonable, Kraljič said they were a consequence of the delays in implementing key measures in the past.
One of the demands is that Slovenia pay off some of the debt by selling state-owned companies. This is a demand that can be made to a small country, but which the European Commission would never dare make to France, he assessed.
In addition to the financial challenges, Slovenia also faces social challenges, where the priority should be creating jobs. According to Kraljič, the country needs to secure economic growth of at least 2% to enable this.
Kraljič believes the only way to secure growth is to boost competitiveness but worries that politicians are not overly concerned about this.
Instead, the country is currently politically divided and society appears to have lost its moral compass given that a key issue is whether Slovenia can be led by prime minister from jail.
For him possible solutions for the current political stalemate include forming a grand coalition like the one in Germany or a technocrat government that would be run by business experts. They should be given at least two years to put things in order, he said.