News item: Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek and Finance Minister Ján Počiatek differ in views of how to secure reduced energy prices for consumers.
By Marián Leško
In two recent televised debates, Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek did battle directly with former Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, and indirectly with current Finance Minister Ján Počiatek. In both debates it became clear that the two finance ministers agree that the state should protect its citizens from rising energy prices, just as they agreed what the consequences could be of Jahnátek's proposals for how to achieve this.
According to the finance ministers, if the state wants to protect its citizens from rising energy prices, it should accept the offer made by the energy suppliers, which is to set up a special energy fund that would be used to compensate lower-income groups. Jahnátek himself said that of the two men that "I see you have very similar ideas, or that the ideas of the former finance minister endure".
Mikloš agrees with Počiatek that if the Bureau for the Regulation of Network Industries [ÚRSO - the market regulator that sets energy prices - ed. note] accepts the "recommendation" of the government and sets prices according to the views of the Economy Ministry, the shortfall in revenues from energy sales will cost the state budget Sk4.1 billion. Jahnátek also noticed this similarity in their views, and said it made him laugh.
While we don't know what Počiatek said at last week's cabinet meeting, Mikloš spoke the truth with absolute clarity: If Jahnátek's plan is carried out, households that use little energy will save a few crowns a month, those that have moderate usage will be better off by a few dozen crowns, and those with high usage could save a few hundred crowns a month. On the other hand, industrial users of energy will save hundreds of thousands a month and the largest will save millions.
Mikloš asked Jahnátek publicly what Počiatek can only ask PM Fico behind closed doors: Why does the state want to hurt energy companies in which the state has a stake and from which it receives dividends, and on the other hand benefit users, even though these are privately owned firms?
In the Dzurinda government, the state's head economist was the minister of finance. In the Fico government it is the minister of economy.