Business News

PM Intent on Reforming Slovenia by the End of Term

Ljubljana, 17 May (STA) - Prime Minister Borut Pahor announced a series of reforms in an interview with Monday's edition of business daily Finance, including of regulatory mechanisms, public procurement and government.

However, the "most important reform remains securing peace and stability in the region", Pahor said, but then pointed to healthcare reform and pension reform, where he would like to reach compromise.

"We'll reform regulatory mechanisms, which will move under the central government's wing and will be independent of the government."

The prime minister expects the government will make big savings through sweeping reform of public procurement. "We'll combine all expert services in a central body."

As part of public sector reform Pahor announced smaller government. "My idea is that Slovenia could function with nine to eleven ministries, but their make-up should change. I plan this for late 2011, early 2012."

Pahor would not announce his resignation in case of a no-vote in the 6 June referendum on the border arbitration treaty. He would not like the referendum to turn into an election and believes a no-vote would be bad.

"If a majority block Croatia, I guess I'll have to establish I'm not in a position to lead a policy of isolation, that someone else should take over."

The PM also discussed interest of foreign firms in Slovenian companies. He said there was much interest in the biggest two banks, NLB and NKBM.

"The main question with NLB is finance the capital injection from the budget or should we give up the majority stake and give an opportunity to a foreign partner. This is increasingly a possibility I favour."

Pahor said he did not use to favour such a position because he found it important for NLB to be majority state-owned. "I'm no longer convinced this is the wisest policy."

He is inclined to support the idea of the state keeping a controlling stake, 25%, plus a golden share.

This would enable the government to control the bank's strategy, "not to let a potential strategic partner to draw money from NLB and transfer it to the parent, which happened virtually across Central Europe".

The PM admitted that his view on the issue diverges from that of Finance Minister Franc Krizanic. "Krizanic deems state ownership of NLB to be in the national interest."

The question of NLB's ownership has been topical ever since Belgian KBC wanted to raise its stake from 34% to over 50%. Having failed, KBC announced it would pull out from NLB years ago, but has not yet.

Lack of interest on the part of KBC was the reason why the planned EUR 250m worth capital injection at the bank failed through in December 2009. The bank's supervisory board will address the issue again on 27 May.

Pahor also told Finance that had recently received a visit from the chairman of Sandoz, the generics arm of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, because of its plans to expand production at Slovenia's Lek.

"We are certainly interested. Like in the case of Revoz (a subsidiary of the French car maker Renault), we are willing to give a stimulus for Sandoz too because it will nearly double the production at Lek."

Pahor reiterated his promise that the government would relieve the tax burden on companies; "we'll make up for the budget shortfall with reform...I have a vision. The year 2010 is a milestone."

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