As shoppers continue to storm foreign retail chains, the government is preparing to make sure they at least think of buying Slovak products.
The main idea of the project is to motivate people to buy domestic products, thus decreasing the number of foreign goods imported to Slovakia and improving the country's trade balance. Many in the government and the private sector feel that Slovaks still look down on goods manufactured at home, and argue that through education and advertising, this attitude can be changed.
"People have to realise when they do it [buy domestic products] they indirectly improve their economic situation as they improve the country's trade balance," said Economy Ministry spokesman Peter Benčúrik.
But the Economy Ministry is finding it difficult to reach agreement with the Finance Ministry on how much money should be allocated to the campaign from the state budget. The Economy Ministry put the government's contribution at two million Slovak crowns ($42,500) for the rest of this year, while the Finance Ministry has said even this figure is too high.
As it stands, the situation is far from catastrophic. Research done by the Economy Ministry shows that 73% of the products sold in grocery stores are of Slovak origin. The ministry estimates, however, that if the number of foreign products exported to Slovakia was decreased by 10% in each industry, overall industrial production in Slovakia would increase by 7.5 billion Slovak crowns a year, creating 8,500 new jobs.
But according to Ivan Oravec, the head of the Slovak Grocery and Agricultural Union, more than government campaigns are needed to boost the consumption of domestic goods. "It is necessary for Slovak producers to merge and create big units and put finances together to be able to compete with strong foreign companies like Pepsi Cola, which put a lot of money into massive advertising campaigns," he said. "This massive advertising plays a significant role in people's thinking, and when they go to the store and see Pepsi Cola, they just grab it without making a comparison with any other similar Slovak product."
For Michal Kustra, an analyst with Tatra Banka, the spending habits of Slovak consumers will prove more difficult to change than either manufacturers or the government hopes. The reason many people still prefer western products, he says, is deeply psychological - during communism, everything from the West was considered taboo. "This means that Slovaks now, a priori, tend to buy western products. You know, forbidden fruit tastes the best," Kustra said.
"Now, when Slovaks see the same item put out by the two different producers for the same price, they go for the one made abroad," he added.
4. Sep 2000 at 0:00 | Peter Barecz