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Privatisation Must Continue, Outgoing Economy Minister Says

Ljubljana, 21 July (STA) - The privatisation in Slovenia must continue, outgoing Economic Development and Technology Minister Metod Dragonja said on Monday, calling for legislative changes aimed at "securing quality buyers for state companies".

The legislative upgrades should allow the state to put greater emphasis on pledges from the prospective buyers on sustainability of the company rather than just the price offered, said Dragonja.

"We must get quality new owners, who will unlock development, promote new products and expansion to new markets, rather than pursuing short-term goals," Dragonja said at a news conference.

The minister announced that the outgoing government would draft the changes to this effect and hand them to the new government for adoption.

Dragonja reiterated the privatisation process in Slovenia must move ahead, even after the new government takes over.

He assessed as overly harsh the reaction to the government's recent decision to temporarily put the process of selling state-owned companies on ice to allow the new government to assume office.

"The Slovenia Sovereign Holding is continuing with processes related to the sale of state shares, so nothing has been endangered," he said.

He again defended the decision taken by the outgoing government, saying it was only right that the new government was given the chance to have its say on the process.

Taking stock of his brief term in office - he took over on 25 February following the resignation of the previous minister - Dragonja said that privatisation had been a priority along with company restructuring.

The letter, he admitted, was proceeding too slowly. One reason is that banks are overly reluctant to assume risk.

The European Commission is not satisfied with the activities in this area and is demanding a taskforce which would oversee activities, set clear priorities and supervise the banking sector.

While certain institutions, especially the Bank Asset Management Agency (BAMC), have started intensive activities in this area, the main problem is the lack of coordination among various stakeholders, Dragonja assessed.

He announced that the ministry held a meeting of the various statekholders recently in order to seek ways to upgrade restructuring.

"With the help of this we will be able to pass on recommendations to the new government on how to integrate procedures effectively."

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