SLOVAK Prime Minister Robert evaluated the first half of his current government’s term in office on May 21, opining that the government has been fulfilling the three key tasks from its keynote agenda, which are consolidation of public funds, supporting economic growth and price stability, and lowering unemployment in Slovakia.

Fico stated at a news conference that the cabinet has succeeded in its goal of reducing the public deficit in 2013 below three percent of the gross domestic product, adding that Slovakia closed last year with a deficit of 2.77 percent of GDP. “Thanks to that, Slovakia is leaving the procedure of excessive deficit this year, and is thus leaving the European Union’s penalty bench," the prime minister remarked, as quoted by the SITA newswire. The government has also been successfully supporting economic growth in Slovakia, Fico declared. The country’s economy is among the fastest growing within the EU and the eurozone.

“We are on a growth trajectory, which is vital for Slovakia,” he claimed and pointed out that the European Commission and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expect Slovakia to achieve a steady economic growth of 2.2 percent this year and 3.1 percent next year. Slovakia is on the right track in its effort to reduce unemployment, Fico said. In April, the unemployment rate reached 12.96 percent, which was the lowest since January 2011.

The cabinet wants to significantly boost minimum wage in Slovakia next year. Fico added that under certain circumstances, the minimum wage could be increased faster than last year. As of the beginning of 2014, the minimum wage rose by 4.2 percent or €14.3 to €352. Fico pointed out that in 2013, the minimum wage in Slovakia increased by the highest percentage in the whole EU. The cabinet plans positive measures in payroll levies, support of employment of young people and provision of the Christmas bonus for pensioners.

Laws that would help solve the problems of people with low incomes, who are numerous in Slovakia, as well as high unemployment rate and deepening divisions among the regions, have not been adopted, former prime minister Iveta Radičová reacted, as quoted by SITA. She added that the law on material need does quite the opposite of strengthening social security, something which was promised by the ruling Smer party in the last election.

She continued that the law on social insurance increases the levy burden, which is then not reflected in increased demand for pension funding. Employment services are not bringing new jobs, and unemployment is improving only thanks to a change in methodology when calculating it, Radičová warned. She summed up the last two years as very difficult, partially due to outside influences, like the tension in Ukraine, but also due to the fact that many ministries (e.g. education, agriculture, health and labour) have not performed well enough to warrant praise.

(Source: SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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