First year of the Šarec government: Public trust an asset for the challenges of the coming years
The first year of the current government’s term of office is ending with stable and strong public support. Since we follow the vision of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec that “our main duty is to work for the people”, increased trust in the work of the government team comes as no surprise. On the anniversary of the election of the government, we are aware of the responsibility that such support entails, and we are once again committed to working in the interest of Slovenia and all of its inhabitants.
Healthcare, the economy, the defence and security system are the government’s priority areas, to be tackled via the responsible ministries and through dialogue with our social partners and professional associations. There are many challenges, but the mistakes and systemic deficiencies of the past cannot be eliminated and major progress cannot be made in all areas in just one year. We are therefore taking it step by step, carefully introducing new approaches and solutions and monitoring the changing circumstances in the international environment.
In healthcare, we are focusing primarily on waiting lists. We have launched a pilot project to analyse waiting times in orthopaedics, which has one of the five longest waiting lists in healthcare. We will use the findings of this project to formulate national measures to bring down waiting times in orthopaedics and in other critical areas: cardiology, neurology, rheumatology and dermatology. Providing accessible, high-quality and effective public health adapted to the new demographic trends remains one of our key challenges in this area.
With the adoption of the revised state budget for 2019, we have established a clear budgetary framework within which we want to ensure stable public finances and provide support for the people and the development of the country. The proposed budgets for 2020 and 2021 will also pursue those aims. By reducing the tax on annual leave allowance, we have taken the first step towards reducing the cost of labour and tax optimisation. We have intervened in the labour market through measures aimed at faster activation of the unemployed; and by eliminating austerity measures in the area of social security benefits, we have made life easier for many families.
As exporters are the driving force of Slovenia’s economic growth, the responsible ministries are providing a wide range of incentives in order to offer them the support they need. We are also working hard to remove administrative obstacles. Encouraging the digital transformation of companies is just one of the building blocks on the way to making our companies more competitive on international markets. The government is aware of the importance of small-scale enterprise, which remains an important segment of the Slovenian economy. We are therefore maintaining an open dialogue and are open to new ideas and initiatives.
Economic diplomacy, which can help companies strengthen their position on traditional markets and ease their entry onto new ones, is another such building block, and partnering with the scientific community and making investments in science and research, for which we increased funding in the revised state budget for 2019 for the first time in many years, is a third.
Slovenia’s recognition and positive image in the international community is an essential condition for the success of our economic diplomacy. Slovenia is on the right path in this respect. We are increasingly establishing ourselves as strong advocates for human rights, and we remain proponents of the rule of law and multilateralism.
Slovenia’s presidency of the EU Council in 2021, for which we are already engaged in intensive preparations, will undoubtedly lead to increased recognition. We have also emphasised our commitment to the rule of law through the consistent implementation of the arbitration agreement, and we expect the same of all of our neighbours and partners in the European Union.
We have adopted the Slovenian Government Strategy on Migration, through which we are taking a comprehensive approach to the management of migration. Illegal migration has a significant impact on the work of police officers and soldiers along the Croatian border, as well as government officials, who are trying to find a unified European solution at the EU level. We have increased our dialogue with local residents and communities, which are becoming increasingly important partners in the protection of our country.
Slovenia is a safe country. The fact that our border is well secured and that we are successfully managing the Schengen border and dealing effectively with the increased numbers of illegal crossings of the border has been acknowledged by other countries. We are also active in situations in which Slovenes living abroad find themselves in difficulties: the repatriation of 47 persons of Slovenian descent from Venezuela was a significant logistical task for our country, but for the many Slovenes living around the world it is an important reminder that we have not forgotten about them.
Dealing with illegal migration, instabilities in our region, and the consequences of climate change and armed conflict proves that we are not living in isolation from the rest of the world. We are therefore closely monitoring events in the international community, whether they relate to information and cyber security, hybrid threats or the ever-louder warnings that another recession is around the corner.
We have established an Office of Information Security, which functions as a body of the Ministry of Public Administration. The area of information and cyber security includes measures for achieving a high level of network and information system security in Slovenia that are essential to the uninterrupted operation of the state under all security conditions, and that provide essential services for maintaining key social and economic activities in Slovenia.
The development of road infrastructure and improvements to public transport are areas that have a major impact on the competitiveness of our economy and, at the same time, help ease the burden on the environment in the long term. We have completed the financing plan for the second track on the Koper-Divača line and have already begun construction. Activities are under way along the route of Development Axis 3, but in the short term the majority of Slovenia’s inhabitants will enjoy the benefits of the introduction of the single ticket for all forms of public transport and the introduction of more than eighty fast bus routes. We are also accelerating the renovation and upgrading of our railway infrastructure.
Slovenia is currently in good economic shape. However, the latest Slovenian and global macroeconomic indicators demand attention, and we are taking the signals and warnings very seriously. Slovenia is significantly better prepared to face deteriorating economic conditions than it was a decade ago, when it paid a steep price for its naiveté.
We are therefore entering the second year of the current term of office boldly and are decisively carrying out the long-awaited structural reforms of the pension and healthcare systems, and optimising the tax laws. After all, the Slovenian public, which month after month demonstrates a high level of trust in our work, expects no less from us.