Celje, 08 September (STA) - Prime Minister Borut Pahor assessed that the Slovenian economy had overcome the worst of the crisis as he addressed the opening of the 43rd International Trade Fair (MOS) in Celje on Wednesday.
The Slovenian economy has stepped on the path of recovery, but the government "has not taken off its work clothes and put on Sunday's best yet", Pahor told the opening.
The economy was shattered badly because its foundations had become so loose they had to be fixed, the PM said, illustrating that Slovenia's GDP contracted by a record 9.4% the second quarter last year and grew by 2.2% in the second quarter this year.
Last Christmas the government decided on an exit strategy, which Pahor expects will be implemented as scheduled. He expects all goals to be attained by this Christmas, but the budget deficit remains a problem.
The aims set last Christmas for 2010 included economic growth of 1% and survey-based unemployment of below 7.5% as well as a 0.5 percentage point cut in the budget deficit.
Pahor projected that Slovenia's economic growth rate at the annual level by 2013 will not be any higher than the 2.2% registered in the second quarter of this year.
He said one of the priorities in helping the economy was to create more favourable business conditions for small and medium-sized companies.
But Chairman of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) Stefan Pavlinjek complained of higher excise duties on electricity and gas, which he said would result in a surge in costs for some businesses.
This would in turn trigger even greater payment default, the consequences of which will reflect on a decline in investment in development and a loss of jobs. "If the burden proves too heavy, production will likely move abroad."
Pavlinjek was also critical of the proposal of new real-estate tax and a 150% rise in contributions for compulsory additional pension insurance, which he said would dramatically increase the cost of labour for employees entitled to early retirement.
The executive director of fairgrounds operator Celjski sejem, Breda Obrez Preskar, said that fairs were the best indication of the state of economy. "The economy is recovering at a slower pace than we'd want. This is why we had to work even harder to attract new exhibitors this year."
Running until next Wednesday, the International Trade Fair features nearly 1,700 exhibitors from 34 countries on 65,000 square metres.
Apart from traditional partners such as Austria, Croatia, Serbia, and India, there is also a joint presentation of businesses from Indonesia, while the organisers have also announced delegations from Egypt and Qatar.
About 100 conferences, meetings, talks and round-table discussions will be held as part of the fair, as well as various consultations. The OZS chamber will organize three international conferences and other events.